Like Enemy Mine, a movie that sought philosophical answers about warfare, and Alien Nation, an allegory for America’s treatment of immigrants, Cherry 2000 asks difficult and introspective questions about the human race. Well, mostly one question, actually: Would you stick it in a robot.
Please don’t make me tell you what “it” is.
Made by Orion Pictures, Cherry 2000 got shelved after it was finished in 1985 because Orion just wasn’t doing too hot financially. Even 1986’s monstrous success Back To School (RIP, Rodney) couldn’t help the company collect enough cash to release this… thing. It took the success of 1987’s RoboCop to finally allow Cherry 2000 to have a very, very, very limited theatrical release in 1987 before being released on VHS in 1988.
Thanks, RoboCop! I guess…
Cherry 2000’s main character is Sam, who’s played by David Andrews, an actor who has been in plenty of films you’ve seen, but in parts you probably don’t remember (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Apollo 13, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, World War Z…). After Sam arrives to his 2017 home, where everything is just as you would expect the future to be (very round and very plastic), he starts to get his sexy on with his beautiful homemaker wife, Cherry. And by sexy, I mean weird. Sam seems to have some sort of cleanliness fetish. As they start making out, Sam doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that Cherry’s wearing those big, yellow rubber gloves you use when you clean the dishes, touching the side of his face as their lips tango (they thought of their rubber texture creeps me out). When Sam’s futuristic dishwasher (which looks like an oldschool hairdryer over their sink) starts to overflow, covering their kitchen floor in bubbly water, Sam doesn’t freak out. Instead, he rolls around in the bubbles with Cherry as they continue their foreplay.
Sadly, their lovemaking ends short after Cherry freezes up. Literally. As it turns out — SURPRISE! — Cherry’s a robot and the water and bubbles have apparently fried her circuits.
So now not only does Sam need a new dishwasher (one that doesn’t explode bubbles everywhere) and possibly a new floor (water damage sucks, man), but he also needs a new goddamn subservient sex robot that also cleans the house.
The only problem? Everything outside of Sam’s city is a desert wasteland (why does the future always suck?) and the only place to find an exact replica of Cherry is in a warehouse… in the worst part of the desert outside of Sam’s city.
Sam, the city slicker that he is, just doesn’t got the skills to venture out himself to find another robot sex slave, so he hires E. Johnson, a tracker. Played by a young Melanie Griffith (sorry it didn’t work out with Antonio, Melanie), she’s a rough and tumble adventurer who risks her life for a living. She’s the opposite of both Sam and Cherry — she’s brash, tough and wild.
And this is most of the movie. These two wacky opposites — the adventurous tracker E. Johnson and the corporately clean and reserved Sam — attempting to survive the wastelands together. How are they going to survive if they can’t even get along?! Will they ever retrieve a replacement of Sam’s Cherry???
One thing I’ve certainly wondered: Does the strongwilled E. Johnson cancel out the mysoginistic ideas behind Cherry, aka, robot sex slave? Honestly, I don’t think I’m equipped to answer that question. I’ve seen this movie three times, once as a child and twice as an adult, and I was too drunk both times I watched it as an adult to really be able to comment on meaningful social issues. My guess is that even E. Johnson, as independent as she is, is too much of a caricature to really do feminism any good. But who knows.
One thing I know for certain: It’s really hard to watch this movie sober.
One scene early in the movie, probably meant to illustrate why Sam’s happy to be with a robot instead of a flesh and blood lady person, shows what a bar is like in the city Sam’s from. Inside, men and women don’t sip on alcohol waiting to get drunk enough to flirt with each other; men and women sip on alcohol, letting lawyers negotiate the minute details of their one night stands. A young Laurence Fishburne (credited as Larry Fishburne!) plays the lawyer in one scene where a man and a woman uncomfortably work out the details of their “arrangement.”
“Let me see this,” the woman says as she grabs the contract from Laurence Fishburne’s character. “My lawyer better see this one. For instance, the oral clause here seems a little… sticky.”
Bad joke aside, this aspect is one of many little interesting interpretations Cherry 2000 makes about the future. The rise of lawyers involved in every aspect of family life the last few decades, along with technology’s penchant for making communication more and more impersonal, make this scenario almost seem plausible. Too bad the execution, like many aspects of Cherry 2000, takes the cheap route.
The second half of the movie is dominated by Sam and Johnson’s attempts to avoid Lester, played by Tim Thomerson, as they traverse through the desert. Lester, for whatever reason, hates trackers, and seems to dedicate his life to killing all trackers. After Lester and his crew of tracker killers, who are young, beautiful and dressed like Arizona retirees, attempt to blow Johnson and Sam to hell, Sam finds himself knocked out, eventually waking up in Lester’s little desert colony. It’s pseudo-dystopian, in that they’ve been able to find comfortable ways to live in an otherwise unlivable hellhole. The catch (there’s always a catch with dystopian societies!) is that they take a lot of joy in murder.
Why does Lester and his crew love killing trackers? Shrug. It’s never fully explained where he get his penchant for murder.
Oh yeah, when Sam wakes up in Lester’s colony, he is met by his ex-girlfriend. Since this is the first time we see Sam’s ex, we’re left wondering what the hell the significance of her being in this colony is (except as a cheap device that keeps Sam alive so the movie can move forward).
Lester and his band of weirdo killers may make no sense, but at least Tom Thomerson is funny. He plays the part as exagerrated and weird as possible, which helps ease the fact that there’s little motivation behind anything he does.
The only captivating part of Cherry 2000 is the fact that it takes Sam so damn long to be attracted to E. Johnson. Despite a brief makeout session with Johnson about two-thirds of the way through the movie, Sam does a good job of staying faithful to his robot lady, dedicated to retrieving her new body or shell or whatever the hell you want to call it. It’s interesting that this terrible movie is actually able to briefly convince you that maybe, just maybe, Sam really is going to choose his robot woman over the flesh-and-blood Melanie Griffith.
While Cherry 2000 proposes many interesting questions about the future, artifical intellgience, love and relationships, it never seeks to really find any answers. Whatsoever. Characters definitely have desires and goals, but the viewer is left without any real insight why those motivations exist, and is therefore forced to not really give a crap whether any of those motivations succeed or fail. Combined with a plot that barely makes sense, I have very little idea why anyone would ever want to watch Cherry 2000.
For me personally, this movie encapsulates a nostalgia I can only find in a handful of places. This is one of many sci-fi movies that I would watch during the summer when I was a kid, or when I faked sick and stayed home from school. No, Cherry 2000 is not Road Warrior, Blade Runner, or even The Last Starfighter. But it still comes from a setting and time period that flips a switch in my brain. A switch that causes me to want to see the real world altered and skewed. No, Cherry 2000 doesn’t have a scene that’s like my favorite part of Enemy Mine, where Willis Davidge finds out that his alien counterpart, Jerry, is pregnant, even though they’ve been stranded on an alien planet for three years (point to asexuality reproduction all you want, I’m blaming this baby on love). Cherry 2000 does exist in the same general science fiction bubble that allows alien love children to be a possibility though.
And for that, I love it.