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*batteries not included (1987) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • Apartment block tenants seek the aid of alien mechanical life-forms to save their building from demolition.

  • A group of tenants in an apartment block are being forced to move out so that it can be demolished. The tenants are reluctant to move, so the developers hire a local gang to 'persuade' them to leave. Fortunately, visiting alien mechanical life-forms come to town. When they befriend the tenants, the aliens use their extraterrestrial abilities to defeat the developers.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • In New York City's East Village, many blocks of a run-down neighborhood are being demolished to build Lacey Plaza, a high-rise office tower and sports complex. However, residents of one four-story apartment building refuse to move out, despite the developer's offer to pay them to relocate. Elderly couple Frank and Faye Riley (Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy), who run the diner on the ground floor and live on the second floor, have been in the building for over 50 years and cannot imagine any place else as home. Other tenants include starving artist Mason Baylor (Dennis Boutsikaris), pregnant single woman Marisa Esteval (Elizabeth Peña), and retired boxer Harry Noble (Frank McRae).

    Site developer, Mr. Lacey (Michael Green), has his thugs, led by a man named Carlos (Michael Carmine), smash up the diner and some of the residents' apartments. Lacey's assistant, Kovacs (John Pankow), advises the residents to take the money, since it is their final offer. When Frank Riley calls police, they advise against pressing charges, saying the thugs will want revenge once they get out of jail.

    Elderly couple Sid and Muriel Hogenson (Tim Aldredge and Jane Hoffman), who have been assisting Frank in tending to Faye, who has mild dementia, give in and move to a retirement community in New Jersey after Lacey's thugs vandalize their apartment. Without their help, Frank is at his wit's end dealing with Faye and contemplates calling the retirement community. However, he notices that some of the items the thugs broke are now repaired. Other neighbors notice their broken items have been repaired as well.

    One evening Frank and the others follow the cheerful and delusional Faye to the roof, where she shows them two small flying saucer-like living objects, about the size of a dinner plate, which she calls "The Fix-Its." They are the ones who repaired the items. Mason telephones officials asking about missing Army technology. Frank and Marisa wonder if the Fix-Its are aliens or if they are experiencing a dream. They find the Fix-Its are mischievous and enjoy plugging into the electrical outlets. They start talking to the Fix-Its like they are small children. Faye "feeds" them with small screws, nuts and bolts.

    Lacey's henchman, Carlos, is shocked to see all the destruction has been repaired. When he comes into the building, the Fix-Its conk him on the head with a frying pan and later, send a jolt of electricity at him when he investigates the rooftop pigeon coop where the Fix-Its live.

    Mason examines one of the Fix-Its with a magnifying glass and discovers it is made of parts from various appliances. Frank advises against examining the Fix-Its too closely, saying "The quickest way to end a miracle is to ask it why it is, or what it wants." The two Fix-Its do many more repairs around the building and later perform an activity that seems to resemble sex. Afterward, the tenants string a series of extension cords to their rooftop pigeon coop so the Fix-Its can recharge.

    A few days later, the female Fix-It appears to be pregnant and is sucking on the electricity so heavily, the rest of the building lights begin to flicker. Shortly after that, the female Fix-It gives "birth" to two small flying saucers. Mason is excited by the idea that machines can reproduce themselves, calling it "living hardware." A few moments later, the female releases another smaller flying saucer. However, this one appears sickly and dies shortly afterward. Faye holds a funeral and buries it in a flower pot on the roof. Mason suggests performing an autopsy to see how the Fix-Its function, but the others are outraged. However, after everyone leaves, Harry, the former boxer, exhumes the tiny Fix-It, takes some spare parts, and tries to repair it.

    Meanwhile, business is thriving at Riley's Cafe. Faye serves as the waitress while Frank and the Fix-Its cook the food. Developer Lacey is outraged that his construction workers are eating in the diner he wants torn down, and wants the residents out of the building within the next three days. Carlos says he will get the job done, but Lacey has made other arrangements.

    Mason is shocked that pregnant tenant, Marisa, has no idea when her baby is due since she has not been to the doctor. Mason goes grocery shopping and brings her several bags of food. However, as he glances around Marisa's apartment, he is startled to find she has several of his paintings. Marisa poses for a portrait with Mason, but ends the session abruptly when her boyfriend, a musician named Hector, brings his band mates to serenade her before they leave for a show in Chicago, Illinois. After Hector leaves, a jealous Mason kisses Marisa and she kisses him back.

    Carlos breaks into the basement, smashes the water and gas pipes with an ax, and tries to destroy the electrical circuit breakers. When the adult male Fix-It investigates, Carlos attacks it with an ax and it appears to die. The tenants accuse Carlos of murder. When Carlos tries to escape, Harry puts on his boxing gloves and starts to beat him up. However, a demented Faye confuses Carlos with her son, Bobby, and is distraught to see him beaten. Frank reminds Faye that their son died as a teenager in a car wreck, but she does not believe him.... clearly her dementia is gradually becoming more worse. Harry shows everyone that he brought the third baby Fix-It back to life, but all three baby Fix-Its escape and the tenants go searching for them.

    In Times Square, Harry uses a dog whistle and a bullhorn to call the baby Fix-Its which are suckling on the neon and electricity in the area. Meanwhile, the adult female Fix-It performs surgery on the injured male Fix-It and brings it back to life. The adult Fix-Its hear the dog whistle and go to Times Square to reunite with their babies, then fly off as a family.

    Meanwhile, another of Lacey's henchmen rigs the building to explode. Carlos is angry, saying it is his building to destroy and fights him. However, Carlos sees that Faye is still home and rushes to get her out before the explosion. Unable to rescue her since she refuses to leave and remains oblivious to her surroundings, Carlos first tries to ration with her by pretending to be her dead son, but when she soon snaps out of her delusion, he rushes to stop the bomb, but is too late. The building erupts into flames. Carlos gets Faye out through the fire escape, just before the building collapses.

    The next day, a distraught Harry sits on the front stoop, the only thing that remains of the building. Lacey's workers refuse to bulldoze the rest of the building until he moves, so they leave for the day. That night, the Fix-Its return, bringing dozens of Fix-It friends. They rebuild the apartment building overnight.

    The next morning, the tenants are delighted to have their homes back, and Lacey concludes that he will have to work around the building. Soon, Lacey Plaza goes up with the apartment building at its center.

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