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Robots Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

When compared to the computer animated films by Pixar and Dreamworks, Fox's Robots can be considered something of a disappointment. CGI wonders such as Pixar's The Incredibles and Dreamworks' Shrek are not just great animation spectacles, they are also terrific stories, bubbling with charm and character and a wide-appeal brand of humor that sits just as well with both kids and adults. Their content is just as miraculous as their form. Robots can match, or maybe even surpass, any other computer animated film in terms of pure spectacle, but the story, what's behind the eye-candy, is sorely lacking in ingenuity. Robots, in all of its brilliant color and lush visual imagination, is an inspiring film to watch, but because the story and humor are strictly juvenile, it never reaches the standard set by its peers.

But just look at this movie! In Robots, we are treated to a world occupied by just that-robots, some built to look like humans, others not, and each one, it seems, custom built to not look like any other robot. Some of the robots are sleek, metallic and shiny, some are battered, rusty, and patched up with some of the spare parts you might find in your dad's tool shed. Some move on wheels, some on giant balls, some fly, some have nifty roller skate attachments. Most walk. And nothing around the robots is organic-lawns are plates of green sheet metal (how they mow their lawns is too clever to repeat here-see it for yourself), and even the birds have wind-up keys.

All of the robots seem to be built with the intention of making us laugh. Some are jokes in their very construction, such as an elderly bot named Aunt Fanny (voiced by Jennifer Coolidge), who has an enormous robotic fanny that can carry spare parts like a trunk. But even more humorous and more wondrous to behold is the world the robots live in-the cities have been designed by an inventor's wackiest dreams, with lots of bells, whistles, sprockets, rotating parts, clever gizmos, and other do-dads built right onto the towering skyscrapers. And the colors! Every robot and every piece of real estate in the robot world are colored with the gaudiest, brightest hues imaginable. The world of Robots is like what an imaginative kid always believed he could build with his erector set and the right amount of dreaming. This is such a happy looking movie.

The look of Robots is so absorbing and so magical, that most of the time you can't focus on anything else-you just want to soak up all the color and all the cleverness the animators have stuffed into every inch of this film. However, soon you become used to the Robot world, and you sort of have to pay attention to the story, which will seem babyish to anyone over the age of 10. The hero bot is Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor), a determined and smart youth from Rivet Town who dreams of traveling to Robot City to become an inventor. There in the big city lives Big Weld (Mel Brooks), head of a company that makes spare parts for failing robots, and whom Rodney believes will love his inventions.

However, when Rodney gets there, he discovers that the dastardly Phineas T. Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) has taken over Big Weld Industries and ceased the production of spare parts, which, as Ratchet observes, never brought in much money. Instead, Ratchet sells highly expensive upgrades, which the poorer robots obviously can't afford. Sensing injustice, Rodney and a band of other robots, including the beautiful Cappy (Halle Berry), the motor-mouthed Fender (Robin Williams) and the feisty Piper (Amanda Bynes), embark to restore Big Weld's authority in Robot City.

This story is never really that interesting, barely funny (most of the good jokes are visual gags offered by the animation, not the lackluster screenplay), and bluntly obvious and redundant with its message of "follow your dreams." Thank god for Robin Williams, maybe the only consistently entertaining thing Robots has. The uncontrollable improv comedian, who found animated fame as the Genie in Aladdin, works his magic again in Robots as the joke-a-minute laugh machine, Fender. Williams blazes over the film's monotony with his signature brand of seemingly spontaneous humor, as if everything he's saying is coming right off the top of his head. It gives an electric quality to his humor that leaves you cracking up and wanting more. You never know what Fender will say next, but you're positive that it will be hilarious.

The rest of the Robots cast, despite boasting some big names and big talent, is, in a word, boring. Ewan McGregor, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks, Drew Carrey, Jim Broadbent (as Ratchet's mother), and Stanley Tucci are all on autopilot, and seem to be cast not for their interesting or funny voices, but because they provide big names for the marquee. The worst of these is Halle Berry, who plays a character that is utterly useless and instantly forgettable. Her character only exists to give Rodney a cheap love interest and to put Halle Berry's name on the bill. If all of these terrific actors got into their roles the way Robin Williams does, Robots would be among the best animated features to date.

The visuals are inspiring, but the writing isn't, the Robin Williams character is a riot, but the others are worthless. That's essentially the story of Robots, a film that is certainly entertaining, but not in any spectacular way. This is one is strictly for the kids, although the adults won't be bored to tears by it. Robots isn't bad, it just isn't the best we've seen in a genre that continually produces nothing but the best.

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