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In a soon to be demolished block of apartments, the residents resist the criminal methods used to force them to leave so a greedy tycoon can build his new skyscraper. When tiny mechanical aliens land for a recharge, they decide to stay and help out.

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*batteries not included movie full length review - On a scale of one to Casablanca, this film is a "The Secret of NIMH" (1982)

Aliens are not often benevolent creatures in the movies. They tend to want earth or earthlings for food or some other devious end. But sometimes you meet nice aliens at the movies, like E.

T. or the guys from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and it's refreshing. "*Batteries Not Included" may have the most munificent extra-terrestrials since the alien that didn't blow us up in "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951). They are robotic saucers from outer space, about the size of a hub cap. It is unclear whether they are biological or mechanical or both. They can be fixed by toaster parts but they can also give birth. Strange little fellows.

The story is set almost entirely in a condemned apartment building where various residents have resisted the buy-outs from an evil real estate developer. Though their homes are invaded and vandalized by hired street thugs, the long-time tenants of the building refuse to leave. These tenants include Frank Riley (Hume Cronyn), an old man whose whole life has been wrapped up in this building. He raised his family in this building and he owns a small diner on the first floor that has been his livelihood. His wife Faye (Jessica Tandy) is fading mentally, appearing to have a mish-mash of Alzheimer's and post traumatic stress disorder. Another tenant is Mason Baylor, a struggling artist who thinks the building has historical value. He brings a city examiner to assess whether the building is worth preserving and she promptly tells him it's in such a despicable condition she can't help him.

Enter the little guys. The saucers show up exactly when the tenant's situation looks to be most hopeless. They arrive at night and start lurking about the apartment building, plugging into electric sockets and fixing small things. Soon the tenants begin to notice that someone (or something) is doing renovation work on their building. They fix unfixable things like broken glass and tarnished wood. When it comes to pass that the tenants find out about these creatures, they understand that the saucers are here for their benefit and soon they become mutual allies.

What's so fun about "*Batteries Not Included" is seeing how these strange saucer robots actually become like real neighbors to the tenants. They help out at Frank's diner and aid in scaring away the neighborhood thugs. We get to see the saucers start a family and deal with tragedy and witness how their neighbors help them through. Essentially, the saucers become characters just as real as the tenants. And they're always fixing, fixing, fixing.

This is a good family film. At times it's a little scary and speaks to some dark truths (there is a robot miscarriage, which is weird, but touchingly sad). Ultimately though, it is a movie about the importance of community and about being a good neighbor, the sort of message that should be in a family film. Also, I should note, the last shot of the film is bittersweet and wonderful.

Rating:

On a scale of one to Casablanca, this film is a "The Secret of NIMH" (1982)

Rationalization:

When it comes to family entertainment I think its very important to have films that enlighten children not only to the wonders of existence, but also to the more fearful and sad side of things. Its also equally important to create stories that are complicated and engaging enough to keep the attention of adults. I suppose what I'm getting at is that a lot of family entertainments merely anesthetize everyone who watches them. It's good to seek out some good intentioned films like "*Batteries Not Included." Yes, its no masterpiece, but who cares?