Sam (David Andrews) is a rich man and can afford the better things in life. It’s clear from the beginning that Sam’s wife Cherry (Pamela Gidley) is a robot, so when they have sex on the flooded kitchen floor as the sink overflows, my second question was “is this good for the robot?” Apparently not, because she shorts out. When Sam takes her in for repair, he’s told it’s a hopeless case. The mechanic tries to show Sam different models, but the crude replacements repulse Sam. He remains faithful to his current appliance.
The mechanic explains he can put Cherry’s personality chip into a new chassis, but there’s one catch — no one knows how to make the Cherry 2000 model anymore, and the only remaining stock is in a warehouse in the desert far outside of the sphere of government control. His buddies try to convince him to give up the robot life and give the real thing a try, but no dice. Organic women are rude to him. Anyway, there’s too much red tape in the sexual contract negotiations. Sam heads out to the wasteland in search of “E,” the best tracker in the business.
“E” turns out to be Edith (Melanie Griffith). He’s confused by her gender and likes neither her tone nor her terms, but agrees to both. Off into the wasteland they go, in search of a new gynoid sex robot for Sam. Along the way they have a few adventures, close shaves, and a run-in with Lester, a New Age warlord whose disciples all wear Hawaiian shirts. Sam also feels himself drawn to Edith, even though she’s infuriating, confusing, and a pain in the ass.
The most entertaining and effective act of the movie is at the end. Sam and Edith locate the warehouse and boot up a new Cherry 2000 chassis, but then they have to get it out under fire from Lester’s gang. Sam and Edith, who have been through a lot, have a rapport and can work together. The manufacturer programmed Cherry for domestic simulation and erotic performance only. She is not just useless in a firefight, she is incapable of realizing that there’s one going on. In a movie that tries to be tongue-in-cheek, this is the only part that’s laugh-out-loud funny. It’s also very effective at underscoring the theme: real partnerships can frustrate, but they are more gratifying than mere sex objects.
Undercutting that everywhere else is the fact that Pamela Gidley plays a robot simulating humanity a lot more effectively than Melanie Griffith does being human. Griffith’s delivery is affectless, and she cannot scrape up any emotional responses beyond mild irritation or passing infatuation. The script calls for her to get angry, which she does by shouting louder. It also calls for her to be pensive, which she does by acting sleepy.
Some of this is on Griffith, but a fair amount of it has to be on the screenwriter who makes her out to be a Mad Max hardass survivalist in one scene and a childlike, romantic naif in the next. There is no reason for E to be attracted to Sam. He is self-absorbed, peevish, and entitled. But she is anyway. If the director and the screenwriter don’t know where Griffith is going with the character, it’s hard to blame her.
There are some talented character actors, though. Tim Thomerson, known for playing Jack Deth in the Trancers series, chews enough scenery to be diverting. Western actor Harry Carey, Jr. has a good bit. Laurence Fishburne has a cameo as a facilitator for sexual encounter negotiations, as does the Maniac Cop Robert Zdar. There’s a bizarre river-crossing scene with an electromagnetic crane, rocket launchers, and physical stunts that bear no critical thinking. As Mad Max ripoffs go, this one is light as a feather, but could stand to have taken itself more seriously. If anyone wants to remake it with Charlize Theron, Tatiana Maslany, and Matt Smith, I’d be up for a rental.