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Short Circuit 2 takes place some years after Short Circuit. Stephanie Speck and Newton Crosby, both stars from the original film, are still together, living out in the wilderness somewhere, with their charge, robot number 5, who is very much a sentient, living being, calling himself Johnny 5. Nova would really like him back, which is why he?s hidden away.
Ben Jahrvi, also from the first film, and who quit working for Nova, over the issue with number 5, is also in this film. He has moved to New York City, and is scraping a living as a street peddler, selling 9? high copies of the robot design from the first film, which he makes by his own hands, and which are fully functional for their size ? they have a tendency to wander off. This amuses fellow street hustler Fred Ritter no-end, and he has made a friendship with Ben, based mostly off his derisive remarks. Fred sells watches of dubious origin, and has more business than Ben.
One of the wandering toys wanders into a department store before Ben can stop it, and is picked up by saleswoman Sandy Banatoni. Sandy loves the little gizmo, and upon asking Ben if he makes them, promptly places an order for 1,000 of them. A somewhat stunned Ben agrees to deliver, and heads off to tell Fred his luck. Fred convinces Ben that he?ll need help, and offers to pay for equipment needed, in return for a partnership. Unwisely, Fred gets the money from a loanshark.
The trail of bad luck continues as the run-down, grimy warehouse the two rent, turns out to be the hideout of a pair of jewel thieves. The two are working for a teller from the bank across the street. Embittered Oscar Baldwin wants to make his bank pay for his retirement. He can think of no better way than stealing the Vanderveer Collection of jewels, value of $40,000,000, when it arrives for storage next week.
As Fred's loan of the building for Ben's fledgling business will slow the thieves down, they attempt to scare the duo off by trashing their equipment, making it impossible for them to meet the deadline.
Just when all seems hopeless, and Fred drops the bombshell of loanshark money, a large crate arrives via parcel delivery. Its from Stephanie. She thought the best way to build little number 5s, was to send number 5 to do the work. The one stipulation? Never, ever let him know he is in a city.
On cue, Johnny demonstrates how he can build the toys in rapid time, and both Ben and Fred are happy to let Johnny do all the work, allowing Ben free time to study up for what he would need to become a U.S. citizen. However, keeping in mind Johnny's thirst for knowledge, Ben makes Fred swear not to reveal the nature of their location to Johnny, correctly guessing that the robot would go data-crazy if he knew he was living in a major metropolis filled with input.
The thieves move in again, seeing production back in full swing. Looking at the robot, they decide these new tenants must be loaded, and start to have second thoughts. However, they decide to smash it anyway. No-one told them Johnny was made for the military, and their attempt at destroying him does not go well, after Johnny?s reflexes pluck the metal poles out of the thieves hands, and he effortlessly bends the metal.
Later, Ben has disappeared, and Johnny asks a relaxed Fred, where he has gone. Fred, not thinking, says Ben had to go downtown to see a client. Johnny picks up on the word downtown. He?s in a town? He rushes over to the wall, and frantically scrubs at a dirty window pane. He peers out at a busy city street. ?A city? I?m in a city? INPUT!?
Fred suddenly realises what he?s done, and tries to convince Johnny its boring out there. He blocks Johnny?s path out. Johnny tells him to move, or he?ll move him. He heads out into the wide open city, to absorb all the knowledge he can.
Johnny helps some kids take all the radios out of a street worth of cars, to ?stop them being stolen?, and in doing so, bumps into Oscar. Oscar steers him away from the kids, and talks with the robot, seeing only a potential tool to get those jewels out.
Ben returns to the warehouse, to find no Johnny. He is somewhat annoyed, to say the least, and lays into Fred. During his anger, he lets slip that Johnny is an $11,000,000 machine. Fred is stunned. Why are they building $20 toys, when they can just sell the big one?
Ben refuses to entertain the notion, saying Johnny is part of the family, and Fred would not understand.
Ben has fallen in love with Sandy over their business talks, and Fred, sensing an opportunity, convinces Ben to ask Sandy out on a date. Using the time alone, he lines up some contacts, who would be interested in buying Johnny.
On the way to the first one, Fred unthinkingly, leads Johnny past a bookstore. Johnny disappears inside, chanting ?Input!?
When Fred follows, he finds a scene of devastation: Books are everywhere. Johnny is reading thorough them at lightning speed, and tossing them over his shoulder as he finishes each. He has worked his way through several display cabinets already, craving input. Fred frantically tries to pull Johnny out before security see. He fails, but manages to pull him out before security catches them.
After they arrive at the offices, Johnny is asked to demonstrate his capabilities, and begins to suspect something is up. He twigs that he is being sold, and declares no. He leaps out through a window of the office building, and tears through the streets.
Later, and at a slower pace, Johnny rolls through the streets, growing more and more despondent. He is learning through interaction with random passers by that no-one sees him as a life-form. To them, he?s just a robot, a machine, a thing. . In an attempt to blend in, he steals a trenchcoat and hat, but is caught by the police, who were informed of his actions in the bookstore.
Later, Ben picks him up from the police stolen goods warehouse. Even the police don?t think he qualifies as alive. Ben is concerned over Johnny?s safety, and absolutely livid at Fred. That night, Ben and Johnny have a talk about Johnny's actions in the city and his reasons behind them, which reveals that they are much alike in their situations: Johnny is lonely because no one believes he's alive, while Ben is lonely because he can't seem to attract Sandy's interest, making him feel as if she doesn't see him as 'alive' beyond being business associates. Realising that his encyclopaedic knowledge about dating could help Ben, Johnny offers to help the struggling roboticist with Sandy during their date.
At first, Ben tries to improvise on his date with Sandy, then Johnny gives him prompts via a nearby electronic billboard with his radio control antenna, Predictably, Ben screws up, reading a sign, not from his heart, and Sandy pushes him away. Finally, he admits the ruse, and points to the billboard, which is displaying ?Sorry, Sandy?, and a picture of Johnny. The two finally begin to bond, and find a common Interest in old music.
The next morning, Oscar visits the warehouse. He finds Johnny alone, and goes to talk with him. His partners are falling behind on the tunnel, under the warehouse to the bank, and his options are short. Whilst Oscar talks with Johnny, his two goons, out of sight, kidnap Fred and Ben, and transport them to a restaurant across town for holding. Locked in the freezer, they are left to die.
Oscar tells Johnny he knows about the thieves who smashed the place up, and tried to smash him up. What happens if they come back, and Fred or Ben are here? The thieves could smash them up, there?s no way out of the warehouse. Johnny considers this, appalled, and asks Oscar what they should do. Oscar recommends an escape tunnel, so Johnny?s friends can get away. He has started one, but cannot dig well. Maybe Johnny could help?
The robot digs with the speed of the possessed, hitting a metal wall, within a couple of hours ? 100 yards from where he started. He goes to dig around it, but Oscar tells him it?s a safe room, Oscar installed for the tunnel to feed into. They just have to cut into it. Johnny obliges; an internal cutter makes short work of the wall. He also unlocks a cabinet inside the metal room for Oscar. Oscar takes the jewels out, and finally tells Johnny he has been deceived. An angry robot chases Oscar, but the henchmen were laying in wait, and this time, they damage the robot severely. However, before they can kill Johnny, he takes control of a nearby remote control model aircraft and uses it to chase them away.
Bleeding battery fluid, his power failing, Johnny, with one good eye, and one partially functional arm, jury-rigs a car battery to himself as a replacement. However, the fit is not good, and it only buys him a little time.
Meanwhile, Fred and Ben manage to jury-rig a broken phone to send tones, even if not voice. They dial Sandy?s answerphone, and play song snippets in tones, to try to leave clues to where they are. Sandy follows them in a taxi, and gets them out.
When returning to the warehouse to find Johnny, Ben and Sandy are falsely captured by the police, while Fred escapes and manages to find Johnny in an alleyway. Fred, having had a change of heart during his time with Ben at the restaurant, and startled by how smashed up Johnny is, tries to help him. The two break into a radioshack, and on Johnny?s instructions, Fred uses whatever he can find, taking it apart to repair Johnny. Johnny gets his other eye back, and his arm, and carries out repairs himself.
Despite Fred's best efforts, Johnny has still not repaired himself enough to save his power supply from fading within an hour, and is leaking battery fluid continually. Meanwhile, Oscar has almost escaped, packing the jewels in plastic dinosaurs for transport past customs and over the border.
Johnny loses it somewhat, adorns his body with broken metal and chain, in a punk rock style, reflecting his anger, and gives chase. Tracks sparking, he uses brute force to move fast, and depletes his power. Johnny finds and corners them at a construction zone near the Hudson River. He uses remote control on a crane, and swings onto the boat, crushing the controls.
Oscar and his gang are captured and the diamonds are returned, but the effort drains Johnny's remaining power reserves. He says a final farewell to Ben, who arrives with the police, and closes his eyes. His body powers down.
Ben refuses to accept this, and assaults a paramedic, taking the defibrillator, and using it as a last ditch battery, holding the panels against the robot, keeping him alive.
After the chase, Johnny is a national celebrity, with his face on magazine covers. The film closes on a US citizenship inauguration with Ben, and Johnny both holding up their hands, as they are both recognised as living, thinking, beings with all the associated rights and privileges, by the US govt.
Asked how he felt about his new status, Johnny enthusiastically jumps into the air, shouting that he feels "alive!"
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