“Chappie” is the latest sci-fi effort from “District 9” and “Elysium” director Neill Blomkamp. Is it sappy? Yes. Will seeing it make you happy? No. Is it, overall, crappy? Unfortunately, yes. But “Chappie” goes way beyond these slightly above-average, yet obvious puns. In an attempt to sum-up what I watched for two hours, I quote one of the film’s many bad guys – the evil Vincent, played by Hugh Jackman: “What in the name of the Lord?” I thought “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” might hold the title of Most Bizarre Movie of 2015, at least for awhile. But we already have a new “Champpieon”.
Set in the not-too distant future, “Chappie” begins with a cameo from CNN’s Anderson Cooper, which means this newsman will be keeping his job for a few more years. He explains, in specific sci-fi movie detail, how a South African weapons corporation, is manufacturing droid police officers, which the city of Johannesburg is successfully using to lower the crime rate.
Deon (“Slumdog Millionaire”‘s Dev Patel) is the genius creator of the droids. Jackman’s Vincent is the jealous co-worker whose own creation, a giant robot moose – I mean his giant robot named “The Moose” (though the first idea would have been more fun) has been rejected in favor of Deon’s smaller, more “human-like” peace-keepers. Everything gets complicated when Deon secretly gives one of the robots true artificial intelligence, with full human characteristics and feelings, and the ability to think and react. He is given the name Chappie (and is voiced by Sharlto Copley). The CG effects used for Chappie are the only impressive elements of the entire film.
And, in a matter of days, Chappie goes from being a baby, to an artist, to a gangster, to a tech wiz, to a fighting machine, to a hero. But there’s no story to support any of these changes or make us care about the fate of this metal marvel.
“Chappie” is filled with over-acting performances on steroids. It seemed like Jackman, Patel and Sigourney Weaver, who plays their boss, did all their scenes in one take. You can almost hear Blomkamp saying “Got it. Let’s move on”. And the violence is heavy. While not as gruesome as “Elysium”, there’s an average of at least one attempt and/or successful killing every minute. But body count does not equal excitement, as most of the action is as dull as Chappie’s monotone voice – the exception being an office scene late in the film which proves that cubicles will not protect you from a robot on a rampage.
“Chappie” attempts to be a fresh sci-fi adventure heavy on social commentary. It also tries to be an underdog story of survival, a gangsta film, a family drama, a revenge thriller and so much more. Blomkamp tries to do and say way too much, and the result is a muddled mess. But what annoyed me above all, was the constant 3rd-person dialogue used by Chappie – “Chappie will help”, “Chappie wants to go home.” I believe these were also uttered: “Chappie gonna mess you up”, “Chappie feels bad for everyone who sat through this movie”, and, sadly, “Chappie doesn’t give refunds”.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Chappie” gets a D.
Running Time: 120 min.