As with most recently released animated films, there is an odd dichotomy to 20th Century Fox’s Robots. On one hand, the film tries to cater to adults by including sophisticated yet dirty jokes and spoofs on films such as Star Wars and Braveheart. On the other, its overdone message of self-worth is more annoying than educational, lowering the level at which we expect children to comprehend a simple message.
The thing is that Robots is really funny. There’s not a minute that goes by without some sort of a joke, crack or spoof that, on instances, will bring a tear of joy to anyone’s eye. Robots is in part a poignant satire of big-city life, borrowing much of its themes from the early cinematic gem Metropolis but adding a comic twist. After all, nothing beats a robot doing the robot.
But it’s hard to overlook the embarrassing way in which the film churns out an old formula: The protagonist overcomes all odds, against all odds. Our protagonist is, of course, an intelligent but poor son-of-a-nobody. There’s the mean, greedy, dimwitted corporate stooge, the old and lovable do-gooder (replaced by the aforementioned stooge) and the brave, beautiful worker who stands up to her boss and a slew of other cookie-cutter characters.
The film’s hour-and-a-half running time is packed with feel-good slogans and highly moralizing propaganda. In true Hollywood fashion, the film ends with a great battle scene, including a parody of the WWF and Britney Spears, in which everyone, even the weakest and smallest, kick some tail to further emphasize this already-too-obvious point.
In all honesty, though, this spoon-fed message is one of the only two things that spoil the film. The second is the tempo, which never slows down and proves much too fast even if the MTV-attention-span stereotypes were true. The film tries to pack everything into that 90 minutes, successfully discarding any dramatic pause or even a dramatic slowdown.
Aside from those couple of blunders the film is a great comedy, appealing to both kids and adults. The imagination of the filmmakers is overwhelming. The music is well-arranged and includes such greats as Tom Waits.
The film’s voice cast, headed by Ewan McGregor, does a fine job bringing their animated characters to life. Stealing the scene is Robin Williams, who once and for all proves that he doesn’t even have to be on screen to exude comical brilliance. Unfortunately, the film has so many characters that many of them are undeveloped and are reduced to having only a few lines each.
The biggest opportunity for the film is its release in IMAX — a way to cash in on unsuspecting mothers of three dragged to the theater by their kids only to spend 15 bucks a ticket. Given all the circumstances, while everything may be bigger in IMAX, including laughs, the already-overindulgent message will be even more blown out of proportion. And that’s something no one should be subjected to.
Comedy, PG, Running time: 90 min.