There's something kinda perfect about the fact that Andy Kaufman's only proper movie remains Heartbeeps, an off-beat romantic comedy about two robots who fall in love and leave their factory to go on a life-changing adventure.
Much like with most of Kaufman's comedy, critics and audiences back in the day just didn't get this movie and it was quickly dismissed as a bomb and a failure. Watching the film now, it's obvious why Heartbeeps didn't exactly wow the public: initially aimed at a young audience, the humour is at times much too weird or adult-themed and both Kaufman and Bernadette Peters look positively freakish. There's a cute baby robot thrown in there but, otherwise, this is one that only fans of the lead's unique sense of humour could possibly enjoy. Anyone else should find themselves scratching their heads, wondering why this movie even exists. Not that Heartbeeps isn't funny, quite the opposite, it's just that the jokes are so bizarre they probably all flew over everyone's heads when the film was released.
A lot of talent went into making this movie, believe it not. The cast, which also includes the likes of Randy Quaid and Christopher Guest, is very good, the make-up effects (by Stan Winston) and animatronics are impressive, the character design is really cool and the atmospheric score was written by John Williams. Yes: that John Williams. The plot is pretty simple as we follow the robot couple as they wander around the countryside in search of a junkyard where they could potentially upgrade their child's hardware while unhinged police robot Crimebuster and a couple of factory workers chase them down. The love story at the heart of the film is tongue-in-cheek at times but, for the most part, it's played earnestly and, as a result, parts of the movie are surprisingly moving.
While the robots, including the Rodney Dangerfield-style one who constantly cracks bad jokes, are very likeable and the film has an odd charming, timeless quality to it, it could have probably given its characters more to do besides walk around and the happy ending feels rather forced, undermining what could have potentially been a genuinely heartbreaking third act otherwise. That said, the movie's core concept is so random and watching Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters play robots is so strange that Heartbeeps is something of a must see. There's really no other film quite like it and even if the jokes aren't your cup of tea, you'll find plenty to enjoy here.
Heartbeeps is one of those cinematic oddities that simply has to be seen to be believed. It's in no way the bad movie critics initially made it out to be and, in fact, it's a funny and heartfelt sci-fi story. Think a very deadpan version of Sleeper crossed with Spielbergian sensibilities and Bicentennial Man.
Weird and wonderful.