After a promising start with District 9, it has been straight downhill for writer-director Neill Blomkamp. That 2009 film won four Oscar nominations including one for Best Picture. But his follow-up, Elysium, failed to excite, and now a ridiculous robot movie Chappie takes Blomkamp even further away from the early potential he showed.

Bottom line is this so-called “futuristic” tale is a bit of a mess, a hybrid of Robocop and Short Circuit with none of the know-how that made those films work as well as they did in the first place. And Chappie is filled with the most unattractive, unlikeable group of human characters seen on screen in a long while. If all humans are like this, no wonder robots are getting all the work!

The basic plot centers on 2016 Johannesburg, South Africa, where a robot police force has completely taken over from humans and is keeping crime at an all-time low. These are unfeeling, all-business machines, but engineer Dev Patel notices one of them has actual human feelings and tendencies. Before he can experiment with the bot that would become known as Chappie, both are kidnapped by a low-life group of thugs who want to use Chappie to join their gang and pull off a big heist.

chappieMeanwhile back at the ranch, Patel’s colleague played by Hugh Jackman, in perhaps the most thankless one-dimensional role of his career, wants to destroy Chappie because he believes any sort of robot with a human edge is bad for the force. He works to enlist their boss, Sigourney Weaver (another dead-end role), in his cause. She gets to utter lines like “destroy that robot. Do it!” Oy. The thugs are played by a bunch of rappers and they hit only one note throughout.

Chappie is voiced by Sharlto Copley (District 9)  and he’s completely over the top. Copley even played the role on-screen during production and was later CGI’d over with the robot body.

The movie is rated R for hard-core violence and language. Why go for a rating like that with a movie that really would appeal most to kids? You’re cutting off your audience in the same way the bad guys try to do to Chappie — limb by limb. Blomkamp co-wrote the film with his collaborator Terri Tatchell, and the film was produced by Simon Kinberg. Sony Pictures releases the film beginning today.

Check out my video review and see if you agree. Do you plan to see Chappie? Let us know what you think.