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Gear Up For 'Robots'

Despite arather banal plot that seems to blatantly steal from others at times, Robotsprovides a visual feast for the mechanically-inclined children it undoubtedlytargets.

Thecomputer-animated film - which opens in movie and select IMAX theaters today -is the latest adventure from directors Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha (who alsoco-directed 2002's Ice Age), and serves up nuts and bolts story ofdetermination conveyed through a beautiful robotic world.

Robots follows the exploits of youngRodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor), who is assembled - rather thanborn - in small-time Rivet Town by his loving dishwasher father Herb (StanleyTucci) and mother (Dianne Wiest).

An inventorat heart, Rodney builds his own Wonderbot and heads off to Robot City on a missionto show the quirky creation to 'bot industrialist and idol Mr. Bigweld (MelBrooks). But Bigweld's company - the aptly named Bigweld Industries - has beenusurped by the sleek, image-obsessed automaton Phineas T. Ratchet (GregKinnear), who has plans of his own to scrap outdated robots by force them tobuy expensive upgrades rather than seek the wizardly repair skills of Rodneyand his rusty pals.

One part TheWizard of Oz and another part Seven Samurai, Robots is ratherfast-paced for what is essentially a tale about believing in yourself (good forkids) and avoiding the pratfalls of an image-centric society (also good forkids). 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, whichalso features an inventing protagonist who finds friends to help overthrowoppressors.

But thereis also some wit behind 'Robots' for grownups to enjoy - such as a fabulousruse between Rodney and his energetic friend Fender (voiced by the equallyenergetic Robin Williams) and the implied death of a lamp post automaton viachalk outline - even if their children are swept up in the overblown fart jokethat precedes it.

And whilethe story may be trite, the images and characters command attention.

Robot City'stransit system, for instance, works together like a giant Rube Goldberg deviceand the metropolis itself resembles a sort of mechano-New York City, from itsbright, shining surface to its seedy, chop shop underbelly.

Rodney'srusty friends (voiced by Drew Carey, Jennifer Coolidge and Amanda Bynes amongothers) make for a fun and rowdy bunch offset only by Cappy (Halle Berry) - a mechanicallylithe Bigweld employee - and the nefarious intentions of Ratchet and hisrobo-cidal mother Madame Gasket (Jim Broadbent).

On its own,Robots is light - but good - fare for kids with a few lines tossed infor adults.

Robots and Robots: The IMAX Experienceopens today.

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Tariq Malik
Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.