Archive for the ‘Robots’ Category

198 – Robots

April 11, 2005

Robots is a familiar story (young outcast struggling against the odds to prove self-worth and help like-minded outcasts), with two variations: cutting-edge animation and Robin Williams. So it’s sort of a high-tech FernGully, or a poor man’s Aladdin.

Rodney Copperbotton (Ewan McGregor) is a enterprising young robot who heads to Robot City to seek his fortune – namely, to meet Mr. Bigweld (Mel Brooks), who runs an entrepenurial robot think-tank where inventors can pitch and eventually follow through on their ideas and visions. But Rodney quickly learns the bad side of good business when he’s abruptly shown the door by the company’s interim head, Ratchet (Greg Kinnear). Rodney learns that Ratchet plans to make all of the robots in Robot City choose either to buy expensive new upgrades or become…. outmoded. As in turned into scrap metal and then melted down. Which kind of begs the whole issue of reincarnation, since these are walking and talking robots. But since this is for a kiddie audience, the movie skirts that all-important issue.

Will Rodney find redemption? Oh, it’s possible. This is from the same fine folks who brought you Ice Age. Think of it as more like Toy Story, with the motley band of loveable personalities banding together to survive and beat the bad guys. But there’s a crucial difference between the films: Toys are cute and cuddly, and robots are not. No knock against the animation process used in Robots, but I’ve had Legos that had more character than some of these bots.

A notable exception is Williams, doing what Robin Williams does best. Even if everything he said wasn’t ad libbed, he makes you feel as if it is – and that’s part of his charm. His extroversion wins you over in the part of Fender (“I used to be Bumper, then we moved to the city”), the robot who’s slowly falling apart and is set to be outmoded.

When movies such as Toy Story and A Bug’s Life came out, we were wowed by the technologically wonderful animation. But audiences are notoriously fickle; we’re now used to computer animation being this good, and so we’re not as easily distracted by the effects. The “sets” on Robots – especially the elaborate transportation found in Robot City – are fantastic, but it seems they would have been even more impressive if they’d been in a short cartoon. The domino sequence was particularly marvelous to behold.

As with most kidlet-appeal movies, Robots tugs hard on your fragile heartstrings. I mean, you know darn well how it’s going to end, and you still can’t help but feel good when it’s over. So the film is successful in that regard. The kids in the theater in which I saw the movie seemed to like it well enough, based on their laughter, but I didn’t get a sense that they thought it was as awesome as, say, Toy Story, which probably spoiled everyone for a long while.

Robots isn’t terribly charming or creative in its storyline or characterizations, although the animation is top notch.

Robots: **1/2