Sam Strange Remembers: CHAPPIE

Beware the baby robot.

Robots are getting smarter and smarter every day. It terrifies me because they don’t have genitalia, and I can’t trust things that don’t get it on. You could conceivably blackmail a Hitler, but that’s a total no-go when it comes to androids.

I’ve made plenty of movies warning the world of the dangers smart robots present. No one listens. It occurred to me that people maybe don’t hear it when you tell them they’re going to die horribly. But if you tell someone that morning traffic is bad or that they have a mosquito on their arm, they freak the fuck out. So instead of telling them how dangerous smart robots are, I thought I’d try to show them how goddamn obnoxious they will be instead.

Chappie takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles in which everything is dirty and vaguely Australian. Despite the grime and funny accents, crime is at an all time low due to a police force lead by A.I.-controlled robots that look like insect-rabbits. The system works and there are no problems. These smart robots are okay and ruin my thesis, so Chappie ignores them as much as possible.

But the guy who created them, an Indian scientist played by pop superstar Drake, can’t leave well enough alone. Despite having single-handedly saved the world, Drake still works in a typical office filled with cubicles and TGIF lunch breaks. That may seem weird, but it’s pretty standard for employees of Genius Enterprises, where everyone is an enterprising genius. Drake might be a rock star at a normal corporation, but at GE, he casually shares a copy machine with the guy who invented Velcro, the lady who discovered how to grow artificial meat, and that guy who came up with the AIDS cure for white people and Magic Johnson.

Drake should be happy with his position, but he’s not. His wiener is an innie, so his ambition is to create a robot that can actually think and learn and fuck up like a human baby since that’s the closest he’s going to get. His boss, played by pop superstar Nicki Minaj, is like, “Why the fuck would you want to do that?” Telling her the truth would mean revealing the secret of his missing wiener, so he just compliments “Superbass” instead and sheepishly backs out of her office.

Meanwhile, a few cubicles down works another genius who has a different big robot project up his sleeve. This guy, played by deceased crocodile tamer Steve Irwin, has an extreme chip on his shoulder. For one, no one likes his “giant saw-testicle robot controlled by a human” idea. For two, his barber cut the front of his hair like the back and the back of his hair like the front. For three, someone stole all his pants. Steve Irwin’s failure to sell his robot idea makes him especially hateful toward the successful Drake. We see Irwin at home surrounded by defaced Degrassi High memorabilia.

Now, even though crime no longer exists in Los Angeles, that doesn’t mean some dumb assholes aren’t going to try it out anyway.  In fact, two of them are the stars of the movie! A bit about these two: Sometimes when you want something really authentic, you have to go with non-actors. With that in mind, one of these characters is played by a friend I made (as a practical joke on the world) by combining the DNA of Victoria Jackson, Björk, and Eminem. The other is played by a South African local celebrity famous for catching piranha with his penis.

These two weirdoes perfectly embodied the mixture of futuristic-stupid and hillbilly-stupid I was looking for. They play a husband and wife team who make money from their band, The Diet Antwerps. Street cred with The Diet Antwerps is quite low, however, so when we meet them, they are trying to raise their status by committing crimes. Of course they suck at it and robots get in the way. Brainstorming back home, they decide, “Hey, what if WE were the fookin robots, aye?” So they decide to kidnap Drake and force him to turn them into robots.

The day they do this happens to be the day Drake finally cracks and steals a robot for his “Make Baby Robot” project. So when they kidnap him, they get the baby robot as well. Once they turn him on, they decide to shoot Drake and raise the baby robot to both do crime stuff for them and play an electric harp plugged into a distortion pedal.

They name the baby robot Chappie and start teaching him everything they know. Because they don't know much, it takes them much longer than normal to realize he was only programmed to have the intellect of a toddler. This means he’s good at crime, but sucks at the harp.

All of Chappie’s training crimes get the attention of Steve Irwin. Seeing this opportunity for what it is, he stops shooting urinal cakes at the office long enough to take his company’s super secret USB Flash Drive that controls Police Robots and turns off LA’s entire robotic police force. This causes riots and chaos that kills thousands. His office makes try to stop him, but he shoots them all in the head. Nicki Minaj tries to stop him, but he shoots her in the head too. He is absolutely determined to show what his robot can do and win that big promotion he’s been gunning for.

And rather than help the city, he decides the best way to do that is to kill Chappie. But the rampant smog makes it hard for him to see through his robot’s shitty visual feed, and he accidentally shoots The Diet Antwerps instead. This pisses Chappie off, so he rides the robot back to Steve Irwin HQ and stomps his head into the ground while admonishing his use of violence for anything other than PS4 gains.

Now Chappie has no Mommy and Daddy. He remembers and episode of Sesame Street where Grover put on a thinking cap, so he dons the helmet Steve Irwin wore to control his big robot. Surprise! When put on an android, the helmet also unlocks the secrets of human consciousness. Amazingly enough, when you put our souls on a computer screen it looks a lot like a NES game in need of a long, hard blow.

So Chappie gets to work making The Diet Antwerps into robots who can now live forever, stinking up the Earth and talking like babies for all time. Kids all over watch their YouTube channel and starting picking up their speech patterns and fashion sense. Soon most children have transported their souls onto baby robot bodies, and none of the old people can comprehend what the fuck just happened.

(three stars)