The tagline used for “Chappie” is “Humanity’s Last Hope Isn’t Human”. If humanity is representative of the people in this movie, the poor robot star of it is really wasting its time.
Actually, anyone that sees “Chappie” will be the only humans wasting their time. This is 120 minutes of irritating characters, over the top sappiness, and a musical score so loud that it overtakes every single insanely staged and preposterous action scene.
It’s ironic that “Chappie” is about artificial intelligence as there is no intelligence in it whatsoever. Leading the charge into stupidity is Sharlto Copley’s Chappie, a member of the police robot force designed to protect Johannesburg, South Africa in the near future.
Since writer and director Neill Blomkamp is clearly out of ideas, “Chappie” starts out just like his first film, “District 9”. We learn via fake news reports that the police robot force was designed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), who works for an evil arms manufacturer run by Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver, fully slumming it).
Even though there seem to be hundreds of thug criminals running around Johannesburg, Blomkamp seemingly decides to make everyone but them the bad guys. The main villain is Vincent (Hugh Jackman), a rival designer of Deon’s that has created a different robot cop that is remotely manned by a human. While Vincent does do several things that are evil, the real atrocities he’s committing involve his mullet and predilection to wearing khaki shorts and knee high socks, making one wish there were such a futuristic thing as the fashion police robot force.
Since the movie abandoned all attempts to be grounded in reality from the get go, Deon types on a computer for a bit, pounds some Red Bull, then boom! He creates artificial intelligence. Since he needs a robot to chuck his invention into, he steals the aforementioned Chappie, who was about to be taken out of commission after taking too much damage.
At first, suspension of disbelief allows “Chappie” to be almost watchable. Then, Ninja, Yolandi, and Yankie (Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo) enter the picture. After some truly insane plot developments, they get their loser hands on Chappie, whose newfound consciousness makes him act a like a newborn puppy.
These scumbags teach Chappie to talk like a highly unskilled rap artist, walk like he constantly has a limp, and, of course, help them steal. The entire time, Copley’s voice work becomes more and more annoying. He constantly refers to himself in the first person and calls Yolandi his “mommy” in the creepiest way possible.
Blomkamp has essentially made an R-rated, Guttenberg-less version of “Short Circuit”. The only difference here is that the more Chappie talks, the more you may want him decommissioned. It doesn’t help that eventually, without any character development or reason, we as audience members are meant to suddenly cheer for the creeps that abducted Chappie.
At some point, all “Chappie” can make you hope to see is a robot fight between Vincent’s monster robot and Chappie. It takes what seems like an eternity for it to happen and when it does, it’s horribly boring. Since Blomkamp wants us to have all the feels, he ends it fairly quickly then sends Chappie after Vincent, who of course is to blame in this preposterous scenario.
The effects are top notch, with Copley’s motion capture work for Chappie turning out much better than his silverware-scratching-on-a-plate voice work. This movie proves, yet again, that a director may be skilled at shooting a movie, but not all of them should be writing screenplays.
In many circles, that is called “Pulling a Shyamalan”.
The main pair of criminals, Ninja and Yolandi, are played by South African rap group Die Antwoord. They should stick to their day job. The only hope is that this duo wanted to be an intentional beat down. There is nothing to like about their characters to begin with, only making their irritating acting that more difficult to watch.
Even though it amounts to a lengthy cameo, Hugh Jackman as a bullying creep is entertaining. Jackman never plays the heavy and unlike the other stiff as a board acting in “Chappie”, he genuinely seems to be relishing it.
Once “Chappie” mercifully ends, it leaves the door open for a sequel. This has become standard operating procedure for Blomkamp, making one wonder if he actually knows how to make a satisfying ending for a movie.
“District 9” gave Blomkamp a hit movie that was smart and entertaining. Two horrible movies later, all his cinematic goodwill should be burned up. “Chappie” needs to be abandoned in the same junkyard as Johnny 5 and those silly aliens from “Batteries Not Included”.