Gear Up For 'Robots'
Despite a rather banal plot that seems to blatantly steal from others at times, Robots provides a visual feast for the mechanically-inclined children it undoubtedly targets.
The computer-animated film - which opens in movie and select IMAX theaters today - is the latest adventure from directors Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha (who also co-directed 2002's Ice Age), and serves up nuts and bolts story of determination conveyed through a beautiful robotic world.
Robots follows the exploits of young Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor), who is assembled - rather than born - in small-time Rivet Town by his loving dishwasher father Herb (Stanley Tucci) and mother (Dianne Wiest).
An inventor at heart, Rodney builds his own Wonderbot and heads off to Robot City on a mission to show the quirky creation to 'bot industrialist and idol Mr. Bigweld (Mel Brooks). But Bigweld's company - the aptly named Bigweld Industries - has been usurped by the sleek, image-obsessed automaton Phineas T. Ratchet (Greg Kinnear), who has plans of his own to scrap outdated robots by force them to buy expensive upgrades rather than seek the wizardly repair skills of Rodney and his rusty pals.
One part The Wizard of Oz and another part Seven Samurai, Robots is rather fast-paced for what is essentially a tale about believing in yourself (good for kids) and avoiding the pratfalls of an image-centric society (also good for kids). For adults, the message falls with a heavy hand and ends a bit too drippy, unlike other similarly-themed films such as Disney's A Bug's Life, which also features an inventing protagonist who finds friends to help overthrow oppressors.
But there is also some wit behind 'Robots' for grownups to enjoy - such as a fabulous ruse between Rodney and his energetic friend Fender (voiced by the equally energetic Robin Williams) and the implied death of a lamp post automaton via chalk outline - even if their children are swept up in the overblown fart joke that precedes it.
And while the story may be trite, the images and characters command attention.
Robot City's transit system, for instance, works together like a giant Rube Goldberg device and the metropolis itself resembles a sort of mechano-New York City, from its bright, shining surface to its seedy, chop shop underbelly.
Rodney's rusty friends (voiced by Drew Carey, Jennifer Coolidge and Amanda Bynes among others) make for a fun and rowdy bunch offset only by Cappy (Halle Berry) - a mechanically lithe Bigweld employee - and the nefarious intentions of Ratchet and his robo-cidal mother Madame Gasket (Jim Broadbent).
On its own, Robots is light - but good - fare for kids with a few lines tossed in for adults.
Robots and Robots: The IMAX Experience opens today.
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