“If only God can make a tree, God is very efficient.”
“Correct. God makes the trees and then humans make from them a variety of paper products, ranging from wrapping paper for gala events to interoffice memos!”
I have never understood why Bernadette Peters – one of the greats of the theatre – didn’t have an equally illustrious Hollywood career. Other giants of the stage like Judi Dench, Laurence Olivier, and Ian McKellan had made the crossover. And just look at Bernadette’s early film work with Mel Brooks and Steve Martin. She was perfectly cast as the throwback babe, paying homage to bygone eras while never feeling dated. Her glorious performance in Pennies From Heaven where she played the virginal schoolmarm turned worldly hooker is clearly a glowing example of the Academy’s amnesia. Obviously, the choice to not be the next Carole Lombard was her own. And after a dud like Heartbeeps, I would probably flee back to New York too.
Heartbeeps is the story of two robots who fall in love. While waiting for some routine maintenance, Val (Andy Kaufman) – a lumber expert (apparently, a very important niche knowledge) – and Aqua (Bernadette Peters) – programmed to engage in cocktail chatter at parties (I guess the future is void of real women who will laugh at bad jokes from ugly men) – decide to broaden their “content functions” and go see the trees on the horizon first hand. So they and their wisecracking pal, Catskill (yes, because he is designed to tell Borscht belt jokes) steal a truck and venture out into the unknown. Along the way, they learn about such human phenomenons as parenting, friendship, and tenderness.
But of course, robots cann’t just wander off unnoticed. A CrimeBuster (a ridiculous Dirty Harry type tool tank that actually goes around quoting lines from Cool Hand Luke) rolls through the hills shooting at rabbits and destroying house parties in its singular pursuit. His handlers (Randy Quaid and Kenneth McMillan) also must hit the road to protect their jobs. It’s a race against time before their batteries run out and they are lost in the woods forever!
I wish I were making this premise up. Whoever got stoned and concocted this malarky needs to share where they were buying their stuff. The dialogue is understandably rigid and clunky with Peters and Kaufman committing to their ridiculous charge like the professionals they are (although we get a sense that Kaufman is judging his own performance, realizing the quality of the film he is in…). Their physicality is wonderfully specific, yet this necessitates the entire tempo of the film to match their slow and methodical speech, made even more lethargic by John Williams’ attempted whimsy.
The reviews for this film range from disappointment (Ebert called it “a cold potato pancake” to vitriol (one reviewer claimed, “I would rather shove knitting needles in my eyes rather than sit through five minutes of this again”). While it is by no means the worst film I have sat through in life or for this column (that would easily go to Battleship or Catwoman), Heartbeeps is painfully awful, particularly given the illustrious talent attached (Stan Winston, famed make-up and special effects artist, also hitched his horse to this run down stable). At 79 minutes, it is about 75 minutes too long.
If you really want to watch it, you can rent it on Amazon for 2.99. But for that price, you’d be better off getting a Big Mac and fries. Either way, you’ll have indigestion. Might as well start off enjoyable.
Or, Hell. Skip it all. And just watch this: