Heartbeeps is a Cinematic Enigma of Robo-love and Nostalgic Charm

A review of "Heartbeeps," exploring its heartfelt robo-love story, memorable score, and the mixed reception of Andy Kaufman's final theatrical performance.

Photo of Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters from the film Heartbeeps 1981.
Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters star in Heartbeeps. 

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to watch a heartwarming love story between two robots that look like they were assembled in an IKEA showroom by a blindfolded intern during an earthquake, then "Heartbeeps" is the cinematic masterpiece you've been dreaming of.

Directed by the brilliantly eccentric Allan Arkush and starring the delightfully unpredictable Andy Kaufman and the always enchanting Bernadette Peters, this 1981 romantic-comedy and science fiction extravaganza offers a whimsical blend of humor and adorably clunky romance that you never knew you needed.

Heartbeeps Trailer

At the heart of the film is a mushy, metal-clad love story that unfolds with all the charm of a cheesy romance novel set in a scrapyard. ValCom 17485 and AquaCom 89045, two love-struck robots, navigate the ups and downs of romance with all the grace of a pair of mismatched nuts and bolts.

Joining this mechanical love fest are the ever-hilarious Randy Quaid, the wonderfully gruff Kenneth McMillan, the charmingly quirky Melanie Mayron, and the brilliantly deadpan Christopher Guest. The legendary Jerry Garcia lends his iconic voice in a rare film cameo.

It's a movie that promises a journey like no other, mostly because who else would dare to mix a mushy love story with malfunctioning robots, a mechanical stand-up comic who never stands up, and a whole lot of heart.


"Heartbeeps" is set in a wacky future where robots do everything from parking your car to making sure your poolside party is a roaring success. Enter ValCom 17485, a valet robot played by the delightfully unpredictable Andy Kaufman, and AquaCom 89045, a hostess robot brought to life by the endlessly charming Bernadette Peters.

These two mechanical marvels meet at a repair factory, and—hold onto your motherboards.—it's not just their circuits that start sparking, but a full-on robotic romance. With gears turning, eyes glowing, and digital hearts fluttering as these two fall head over wheels in love. It's a love story that is so cheesy that it could power a fondue pot.

Fed up with their mundane, pre-programmed existence, Val and Aqua decide to throw caution to the wind and break free from the factory. They set off on a grand adventure filled with love, freedom, and the quest for a fresh power supply.

Along the way, they construct a little robot named Phil from spare parts, treating him like their mechanical child. Two robots and their adorable robo-baby, a family unit that's as heartwarming as it is metallic.

Joining their whimsical journey is Catskil, a robot comedian who, despite being built to deliver laughs, spends the entire movie sitting down. His hilarious antics prove that even in the future, comic relief can come from the most ridiculously unexpected places.

Together, this lovable band of misfit robots embarks on an adventure that's equal parts mushy, cheesy, and utterly delightful.

But it's not all sunshine and circuit boards. Crimebuster is a malfunctioning law-enforcement robot who's more paranoid than your uncle after a late-night alien documentary binge. Programmed to drag our love-struck robots back to the factory, Crimebuster is on a relentless mission.

Thankfully, our heroes get a helping hand (and a few greasy wrenches) from some junkyard-dwelling humans who look like they stepped straight out of a Mad Max fan club. With a timely battery transplant from Catskil, they keep their little robot tyke, Phil, beeping and booping along.

However, when you think it's all going to work out, their luck runs out faster than a robot on a treadmill.

The factory goons swoop in, capture them and haul them back to the repair shop. There, they wipe their memories so many times that the robots are left more confused than a GPS in a concrete parking garage, eventually considering them nothing but scrap metal.

It's a robo-rollercoaster of emotions, folks.

When all seems lost, and our mechanical lovebirds are about to become high-tech paperweights, the junkyard humans swoop in like a ragtag team of techno-knights.

They save the day, reassemble Val and Aqua with more love and duct tape than you'd think possible, and give them a shiny new lease on life.

Not stopping there, our industrious duo even builds a robot daughter because what's a robotic happily-ever-after without a bit of family expansion?

As the film wraps up, we see Crimebuster still glitching and bumbling through yet another mission, proving that some robots never learn. He sets off on a new quest, leaving us all to wonder if he'll ever get his circuits in order.

It's a fittingly quirky end to a tale that's as heartwarming as it is nuts-and-bolts bonkers.

Who Will Watch

"Heartbeeps" is a delightful oddity that will appeal to a niche audience with a taste for whimsical, offbeat science fiction. Classic science fiction fans who appreciate the experimental and often unpredictable nature of early '80s cinema will find this film a nostalgic gem.

Moreover, fans of Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters will be drawn to see their unique performances in a setting far removed from their usual roles. The film's humor, though peculiar, will resonate with those who appreciate a blend of dry wit and slapstick comedy.

John Williams enthusiasts will also find a reason to watch, as the movie features one of his lesser-known but intriguingly experimental scores.

"Heartbeeps" is ideal for anyone looking to experience a quirky, heartfelt narrative that stands apart from the mainstream sci-fi and romantic comedies of its time. It's a film for those who value the charm of vintage science fiction and the enduring appeal of a story about finding love and family in the unlikeliest places.