Not rated because it was a Disney Channel Original Movie from 1987. Yeah, that's where things get dicey. There's an evil toy CEO who wants to militarized an android. That can get pretty scary, I guess? Also, Chip makes some really uncomfortable teen smoking jokes which just scream 1987. At one point, it looks like Chip is dead. Also, the evil toy CEO nearly murders some of the main characters. It's 1987 Disney Channel Original Movie terror.
DIRECTOR: Steven H. Stern
I'm a turd, that's why. Watch the original High School Musical today. I'm sure some of you out there probably watch it on the reg. Does it really hold up? Be honest. Like, if you introduced a Zoomer to this movie today, would they be like "This is the best movie ever" or would they be clamoring for another sequel to Zombies or The Descendants? Now, imagine applying that same standard to a movie that most people have forgotten about, let alone had never seen. Okay. As a kid, I was obsessed with this trilogy. I watched them all on my VHS recordings on a loop until I wore out the tape. I bought the novels from the discount toy store at the outlet mall, where my dad, for some reason, decided to argue about whether a toy store really belonged in an outlet mall because it wasn't one brand of toys. Oh, not with me. With the employee who was working at the time. These are the small things I've held onto.
With Disney+ out, I really wanted to test out how deep the Disney original content went. It failed with the Not Quite Human franchise. But I can also see why no one cared. We found a YouTube version of Not Quite Human (hypothetically because I actually really believe in supporting artists, but there literally is no other way to watch this that would involve the artists getting a piece of this). There's a general lack of quality to this movie. I think this is just something that my four-year-old brain locked onto. This is the same kid who would later graft onto Star Trek: The Next Generation aggressively. I think I just love the Data narrative so much that it was written into my DNA / OS.
This is something I'm going to explore about myself right now. It's going to go pretty heavy and perhaps be selfish. But then again, I don't know who is clamoring to a personal film website to be reading about one dude's opinions on the 1987 forgotten trashbag that is Not Quite Human. The answer, reader, is you by the sheer fact that you are reading this. Happy jackpot, reader, because you are in a very small club. Heck, usually I dive deep to look for images that are in the proper aspect ratio to put above. I was just thrilled to find some cropped images from the movie that were high res enough to put on the page without shrinking the image. These are things I deal with on a regular basis.
But back to the Pinocchio narrative. The odd thing is that I don't like Pinocchio. I really never cared for it. Perhaps it was Monstro, which puts off a lot of kids. But I think it is the very cynical nature of innocence that Pinocchio imbues to children. What I'm talking about in terms of Pinocchio is the concept that a new being is created free of the constraints of humanity. This creature wants nothing more than to be human. We saw this in A.I. and, again, in Star Trek: The Next Generation. "I want to be a real boy" is such a pure ambition. Part of it comes from the idea that we all want to be real people. As a kid, the conspiracy theory part of my brain ran to a script that told me "What if everyone is just a robot?" Everyone feels different than everyone else. As an adult, I have learned to embrace and to even feed that sense of difference from others. It's what causes me to have these goals and projects because I do value what other people find burdensome. Yeah, I'm a weird dude.
But Pinocchio goes from being a block of wood to choosing every sin in the universe. Pinocchio is meant to be a cautionary tale for children, one that we probably need to hear. It's all about knowing that there will be all those temptations out there, yet we're never too far from redemption. That's pretty important for kids, but it is really moralistic. The sci-fi nerd in me doesn't really care about that. Rather, I love the idea of Data and Chip. Because I'm writing about Not Quite Human, I'll try to stay on target with that reference. Chip is born into a broken world. His dad's boss is a corrupt super evil CEO who wants to make money with war toys (things were simpler in Disney times). He also wants to sell an entire army of Chips to the military, so I can see how that's pretty evil. Also, the actor's name is Joseph Bologna, and I hope it's pronounced "Joey Baloney". Like, this might be another Joey Baloney Joint. However, his dad and creator is a good man who wanted to build a brother for her daughter. His sister, while emotional and kind of high needs, is also a pretty good person. Chip runs into temptations and, unlike Pinocchio, never understands these temptations. They actually don't serve to tempt him. Rather, he balances the only two goals that he has: please those people around him and try to become fully human.
By making the goal of a character "to become human", that's the most optimistic view of humanity that I've ever heard. The result of such a goal is a contrast between what Chip expects humans to be like and what they are actually like. Throughout his adventures through high school, he runs into actual humans displaying some of our worst characteristics. There's the guy who befriends him who offers Chip up as sacrifice to the school bully. There are multiple examples of toxic masculinity running all over the place, both with the student body and the faculty. Everyone is obsessed with their own sexuality and then there's Chip, desperately trying to make everyone happy. He's never frustrated, mainly because he's incapable of really getting frustrated. Both Chip and Data act as templates of innocence throughout their adventures because they are incapable of being evil. Their greatest sin to the lack of trying. It doesn't make them heroic, but it does kind of show the potential for good. Chip gains humanity from TRYING to be human, not mimicking. It's a really weird statement because...
...Chip IS a robot? Not Quite Human has a moment where Chip kind of exceeds his programming. He starts developing feelings for certain people, which is explained away by the fact that his neural network is always trying to better itself and evolve. But I really wish that line wasn't in the movie. Like, it would have been this absolutely great moment where Alan Thicke would just have looked at this machine and known that something special was going on. Instead, there's always that weird Turing Test that we, as the audience, are putting Chip through. Having that line explain how he's bettering himself is still pretty hopeful, but it also minimizes the successes that Chip actually achieves.
But then why do I find these characters so satisfying? As an adult --a fairly cynical adult for that matter --I tend to see robots as simply things. I'm the bad guy in most comic books and sci-fi. It's the idea that things have souls. Maybe what appeals to me about these stories is the concept that it challenges what a soul really is. Again, this is the entertainment and philosophy part of me that is being engaged, not the spiritual side. Chip and Data are robots, regardless of "A Measure of a Man." But we're about to enter an age of artificial intelligence, where this text will be read, re-read, and processed in a hundredth of a nanosecond and I'll be locked up for speaking out against our Skynet overlords. But I want Chip to be real. There's something earnest and honest about Chip as a character that is fundamentally good. He sees humanity as something that is perfect. We are flawed and keep pushing. It's probably pretty selfish to take Chip's journey of self-discovery and attribute it to my fleshy existence, but it's there.
I do have to remind everyone that this movie is terrible. My wife saw the first minute and had flashbacks to Time Chasers on Mystery Science Theater. It's a pretty rough film and it wasn't long before I found that I was the only one watching it. Heck, I was the one who had picked it and watched it a million times and even I was bored with this trash. It's an awful movie, but there's something about it that actually asks some pretty big questions, even if it didn't mean to.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.