Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"Robots": Some Thoughts

As long as we're talking about robots ...

Robots, the latest cinematic excursion in 3-D computer animation, might not rival the monster works being turned out by Pixar, but this offering from director Chris Wedge (who also helmed the respectable Ice Age) still provides enough entertaining moments to leave the theater without cursing children.

In the movie's whimsical world populated by clunky, retro-looking metal robots (think a cross between Forbidden Planet's Robby the Robot and Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots), our perfunctory hero is Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor), a young go-getter bot who leaves small-town Rivet City to become an inventor. That dream propels Rodney to the bustling metropolis of Robot City, where he hopes to meet and work for his idol, Bigweld (Mel Brooks), a benign bot who supplies upgrades for aging and antiquated robots.

But drat! Rodney discovers that Bigweld has all but disappeared from the scene. Instead, Bigweld's empire has been hijacked by Ratchet (Greg Kinnear), an evil corporate robot in league with his even-more-evil mother (Jim Broadbent) to take over Robot City. If all this sounds anti-corporate and mildly subversive -- well, it is. So much the better.

There is a whole slew of star power here to provide voices, most of whom -- including Halle Berry, Stanley Tucci, Jay Leno, Drew Carey and Paul Giamatti -- are wasted. Only Robin Williams really has an opportunity to shine as (what else?) a lovable misfit named Fender. It turns out, incidentally, that even an animated Robin Williams can chew up the scenery with the same zeal as Kirstie Alley at a Vegas buffet.

But while the celebrity names are wasted, the jaw-dropping imagination of Robots is mighty impressive. Despite an occasionally rote script, Robots is rife with wonderful details, from the Rube Goldbergian contraptions that are Robot City's transportation system, right down to the grey pinstripes adorning Ratchet's sleek frame. And, yes, there are enough sly pop-culture references to amuse the weary parents in the audience.

Carrie Rickey provides a solid review in The Philadelphia Inquirer.


At 12:11 PM, Blogger Lance Mannion said...

Yep, Halle Berry sure was wasted. What did she have? Four lines? But I don't agree about Stanley Tucci. He did a great job as Rodney's dad. It was a showy part, but it was the heart of the movie and Tucci made him warm and sad without also making him pathetic or cloying.

Dianne Wiest as Rodney's mom didn't have as much to do but she was also good.

Paul Giamatti did the vocal equivalent of appearing under such heavy makeup he was unrecognizable, but his character, Tim the guard at the gate at Big Weld, was a big hit with our kids---the kind of character they loved to hate.\

Greg Kinnear nearly stole the show though.

Nice blog, Chase, and thanks for the link.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Lance Mannion said...

Sorry. I meant to say that Tucci's role *wasn't* a showy part. Quiet roles often require a lot more out of an actor.

At 11:24 PM, Blogger James said...

My son and I saw it yesterday. The plot was pretty flat, but my son got a kick out of it. The animation was first rate, and I dug playing "name that influence" and I can hang with the generally populist angle that the writers take - but it's not one of those flicks I'd go see twice.


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