PSIPOOK | reviews | robots



Animation/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/91mins
Voices of: Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, Greg Kinnear
Director: Chris Wedge
Twentieth Century Fox

Regular readers of the KS movie pages will know that for this reviewer Pixar’s films (Toy Story, etc.) are the Sistine Chapels of animation. Every digitally animated film that comes along is immediately and uncompromisingly compared to Pixar’s output and found wanting. This reviewer well knows that one day Pixar will be knocked off its pedestal because that is the way of the world. Look at the Roman Empire, which was sacked by a lot of hairy unwashed men wearing, appropriately, sacks. But I also know that when Pixar’s day comes it will not be from Dreamworks (the Shrek people) or Blue Sky (the Ice Age people) it will be some upstart who comes at us from out of the woods wearing only rough hemp.

Robots is from Blue Sky (sequel to Ice Age in the works, folks) so it is not that sack-clad barbarian. It is doing a good job though.

Robots is meticulously imagined. Each scene, each robot each machine bears the marks of lots of careful thought and lots of humour. The colours and design are clever — impressive, even — evoking 40s or 50s kitch, and somewhere in there, the Jetsons and Asimov and the heyday of robot stories. And there’s bags of humour for both kids and big people, which is a precondition of being a good digi-animation.

However, it is in first ideas that the film falls behind. We have talking robots who behave just like humans. Cute, but where have we seen this before? The hero Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) sets out from the small town where he has always lived for the bright lights and big city to find fame and fortune and falls foul of unscrupulous corporate types who would steal the nickel from a robot grandmother’s false teeth, in a follow-your-dreams-and-all-will-end-well moral tale. Nice. Cosy. Clichéd.
We have some lovely set pieces such as the pin-ball inspired mode of public transport (on a par with Monsters Inc’s door-hanging sequence) but we do not have the fundamental spark of originality in the story and characterisation that the possibilities of the digital media is made to exploit.

Review by Chris Page

August, 2005

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