‘Chappie’ Review: Neill Blomkamp’s Rickety Robot Movie

March 4, 2015 6:59 PM

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‘Chappie’ Review: Neill Blomkamp’s Rickety Robot Movie

Intelligence, artificial or otherwise, is one of the major casualties of “Chappie,” a robot-themed action movie that winds up feeling as clunky and confused as the childlike droid with which it shares its name. Mashing together various elements from director Neill Blomkamp’s earlier sci-fi pictures (including another prominent role for Sharlto Copley), this South African spin on “Short Circuit” displays the same handheld immediacy and scene-setting verve as its predecessors, but all in service of a chaotically plotted story and a central character so frankly unappealing he almost makes Jar-Jar Binks seem like tolerable company by comparison. Absent “District 9’s” subtle apartheid allegory or “Elysium’s” health-care brief, but offering a bizarre performance showcase for the rap-rave group Die Antwoord, Blomkamp’s third feature exhausts its meager ideas and the viewer well before the end of its two-hour running time. Curiosity will beckon for a few, but this rickety vehicle isn’t the one to reverse Sony’s recent fortunes.

Starting with his ingenious, justly celebrated debut, “District 9” (2009), Blomkamp has employed the trappings of science fiction to cast a darkly satirical eye on our troubled species, albeit to steadily diminishing returns: Like 2013’s ambitious, disappointing “Elysium,” this lower-budget, smaller...

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