**** (out of 5)
March 11, 2005
Ewan McGregor as RODNEY COPPERBOTTOM
Robin Williams as FENDER
Halle Berry as CAPPY
Greg Kinnear as RATCHET
Stanley Tucci as HERB COPPERBOTTOM
Dianne Wiest as MRS. COPPERBOTTOM
Amanda Bynes as PIPER
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
It’s official. Computer animation has replaced traditional ink-and-paint animation as the go-to family cartoons in Hollywood. It seems that in the past, feature-length animation has been a hit or miss, even for studio leaders like Disney. For every “The Lion King,” there’s always a “Treasure Planet” or “Atlantis” to suck up all the profits.
Like DreamWorks, FOX has walked a tumultuous path with traditional animation. Even though FOX has had successes with films like “Anastasia,” they have also stumbled into bombs like “Titan A.E.” However, they seem to have a knack for the CGI stuff. “Ice Age” was a clever, fun movie that had plenty of success at the box office – and a sequel is on the way.
“Robots” continues with a fun animated ride that should be a treat for the whole family. In this story, Rodney Copperbottom (Ewan McGregor) decides to forge a life of his own. (I know, I couldn’t resist the pun.) His father (Stanley Tucci) gave up his dreams to become a dishwasher and raise a family, so he is completely supportive of his boy’s adventure.
However, as Rodney makes his way to Robot City to become a famous inventor, he quickly becomes disenchanted. The other robots are rude, city life is complicated and it’s not so easy to break into the inventing business. Part of the problem is that an evil robot named Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) has driven Bigweld (Mel Brooks), the former head of the company, underground. Ratchet has plans to do away with spare parts and all old robots for the more lucrative business of upgrades.
After Rodney is booted from Ratchet’s board room, he meets up with a rogue group of robots who welcome him to their home. Rodney, a whiz at mechanics, suddenly finds himself to be the only robot who can actually fix others with the dwindling number of spare parts.
“Robots” is a coming of age story told from the metal man’s point of view. It’s a standard cartoon plot that if filled with hopeful messages about following your dream and doing what you do best. However, don’t go to “Robots” expecting the most brilliant science fiction story ever. These robots are cute and cartoony. It’s one for the kids, but the family should have a lot of fun.
The voice cast is excellent. Ewan McGregor plays it low-key to his benefit, opposite Robin Williams playing it over-the-top equally to his own. He’s not as extreme as his most well known animated role, the Genie from “Aladdin.” Williams is reeled in a bit, but he’s still one of the funnier characters in the film. Other unexpectedly hilarious characters comes from the voices of Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Coolidge and Mel Brooks.
The animation is top-of-the-line and has a fabulous production design. Like most CGI films, it’s almost worth watching for the brilliant set and world design. As complex as the background and character animation is, the story is pretty simple. It’s not high-brow science fiction, and I’m okay with that. Considering the entire advertising campaign has been based on puns (like “Repair for adventure!” and “You dirty Ratchet!”), the light feel of the film should not be a surprise.
Stuffy science fiction critics are going to have a field day with this. After last year’s “I Robot” and the previous year’s “Robot Stories,” fans of robot stories have seen plenty of the mechanical men. And with the anticipation of the upcoming “Star Wars” film, you can bet there’s plenty of more cute robots along the way. If you are obsessed with Isaac Asimov’s original cerebral robot stories, you’ll no doubt bemoan the fact that this is another version of Hollywood does cute robots.
But to these people, I say, “Lighten up. It’s only a movie!”