It’s incredibly frustrating to think that we are now living in the future that many 80’s movies tried to forecast and it just ain’t near as wild as those flicks made it out to be. Back to the Future Part II is the film everyone talks about. It was set in 2015, just two years to go. They had hoverboards…ain’t happenin’. Flying cars…ain’t happenin’. The Cubs won the World Series…I’ve been a Cub fan my whole life and I’m not gettin’ my hopes up too much on that one either. Our film today takes place in the not-too-distant future of 2017. It’s big technological prediction: robot wives who look as good as a flesh and blood woman. Yeah, not sure we’ll be seeing that one in the next four years either. Released in 1988 (after many years of sitting on the shelf) it’s Cherry 2000.
Our story centers on Sam Treadwell (David Andrews), an executive for a recycling company. Recycling is a huge deal in this version of the future, so I guess they kinda sorta got something right there. Anyhow, David seems to have it all…great job and a gorgeous wife named Cherry (Pamela Gidley). It turns out, though, that Cherry is an android. That only ends up being a problem when a lovemaking session amongst the soap suds of an overflowing dishwasher causes a short-circuit. Cherry’s memory chip is still intact, but her insides are shot. Sam needs to find another 2000 model Cherry, but they are rare. Word has it, though, there is one to be found out in the dreaded Zone 7.
Sam will need a tracker to help guide him through the wasteland. Turns out that the best man for the job is a woman, Edith “E” Johnson (Melanie Griffith). The two head out across the desert. Now, the biggest danger out in Zone 7 ends up being a guy called Lester (Tim Thomerson). He’s a bit of a cult leader who has a taste for killing trackers. Our heroes’ first encounter with Lester results in a strange escape involving a large crane lowering their car into a drainage pipe.
At the other end of the pipe they find an old tracker named Six-Fingered Jake (Ben Johnson) who was a bit of a mentor for E. Then dumb old David wanders off on his own and soon finds himself a prisoner in Lester’s compound where, strangely, a former girlfriend of his (Cameron Milzer) is one of the villain’s main squeezes. Luckily E is still out there and is more than willing to bust David out…especially since she clearly fancies the guy. But what will she do when the man she’s falling for finds the robo-babe he’s been wanting?
Cherry 2000 was filmed in 1985 and then sat and sat and sat until it was finally released direct to video in late 1988. Oddly enough, the release ended up coming right about the same time as the release of Working Girl, for which Melanie Griffith would earn an Academy Award nomination. Let’s just say a lot can happen over the course of three years. Her performance here is robotic…and remember, she’s the one playing the human girl. It doesn’t help that the script she has to work with is terrible. Her character is supposed to be this tough grizzled tracker, yet she basically becomes a whiny teenage girl with a crush. Why on earth she has a crush on David is a mystery to me, since he is a thoroughly uninteresting character.
There are a few clever aspects of the film. There is a sequence early on where David, trying to move on after losing his android wife, goes to a singles bar. In this establishment, prospective couples employ lawyers to negotiate what will be allowed on the date…kissing, sex, whatever. Laurence Fishburne puts in a brief appearance as one of the lawyers. The scene is actually pretty funny. Another scene early in the film shows people coming to David’s workplace to recycle their goods. They line up and march into the facility Metropolis-style…recycling because they’re told they must. It’s a sequence that might even play funnier in today’s world with our at times over-emphasis on being green. These scenes show an attempt to give the film a bit of a comedic streak, but that fizzles out as the story moves forward. Not that Tim Thomerson doesn’t try. I’m all for giving a sci-fi adventure some humor, but the villain is not the place to do it. In the end, the character of Lester comes across as an idiot, completely removing any sense of menace.
On viewing Cherry 2000 it is no surprise that the film languished on the studio’s shelf for several years. Ultimately, though, the studio ended up having perfect timing. Melanie Griffith’s Academy Award nomination surely brought more attention to this little stinker than it ever could have deserved on its own. I guess the studio’s patience paid off. One day we Cub fans will be able to say the same thing…I hope.