No, the asterisk in the title isn’t a mistake, nor is the lack of capital letters, that really is the full title of this film from 1987. Dropping capital letters seems to be the in thing these days (particularly in company logos for some reason) but this film beat the trend by at least 20 years!
*batteries not included is a heart warming mix of two classic storylines, given a science fiction twist to make it all seem more believable. The first storyline is one beloved of Hollywood when making kids movies – I call it the Nasty Property Developer™ – you must have seen countless films (mostly second rate ones it has to be said) based on this premise. The Nasty Property Developer™ has bought all the land surrounding except that which the hero of the film owns, who is refusing to sell, so the NPD™ sends in a bunch of hired goons to force them out.
The second storyline is the classic fairytale The Elves and the Shoemaker, where a poor unfortunate is aided by magical creatures in their hour of need. I this particular case though, it’s little robotic spaceship thingies rather than elves.
In noting the above two story influences I’ve pretty much spelled out the plot of the movie without being at all specific, so I’ll fill in some of the details. The heroes of the piece are Frank and Faye Riley, who own an apartment building and restaurant in a run down part of New York. They are an elderly couple, Frank being a hard working sort whilst is wife Faye is going senile. The pair are played by husband and wife team Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, who also starred together in that other Eighties classic Cocoon.
The Riley’s tenants are a bunch of characters that are all suitably vulnerable types in some way or other, the sort of people that even the coldest of hearts could not bare to throw out of their homes. It may seem a little cliched, but the jilted pregnant woman, the jilted failed artist and the retired boxer with the heart of gold (and possible brain damage) are effective characters for tugging at the old heart strings.
Mr. Lacey is our NPD™ of the story, who sends in Carlos and his band of hoodlums to try and force out the Riley’s by smashing up their restaurant, and later even setting fire to it.
As previously mentioned our magical Elves arrive in the nick of time, in the middle of the night, to help the Riley’s out. What these little fellas actually are remains a mystery. They could be spaceships, intelligent beings or robots, but really it doesn’t matter. Two of them arrive and set about repairing the property. The get called the Fix-Its, which is an apt enough name, and later it would appear that they are adult whatever-they-ares, as they give birth to three smaller Fix-Its who also like to help out with the repairs.
A nice little film, and yet another which was produced by Steven Spielberg (sometimes it seems there was nothing in the Eighties that he didn’t have an involvement in). It may not have been a blockbuster movie, indeed it was originally conceived as a story for Spielbergs’ Amazing Stories TV show, but it was quite popular at the time. For some reason it seems to have been forgotten about in more recent times. A shame, as it’s a nice family movie.