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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.09%
Worth A Look: 19.19%
Just Average54.55%
Pretty Crappy: 16.16%
Sucks: 1.01%

8 reviews, 51 user ratings

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by David Cornelius

"Visually, it's amazing. Plotwise, not so much."
3 stars

After “Ice Age,” “Robots,” the follow-up feature from Chris Wedge and Blue Sky Studios, feels like something of a letdown, story-wise. It’s lacking the heart, warmth, and humor the previous film had in spades. “Ice Age,” too underrated by many critics, had sweetness and charm to spare; “Robots,” meanwhile, lacks any real staying power, relying on forgettable plot points and overly loud comedy for a more shallow kind of entertainment.

And yet, from both a visual and imaginative standpoint, “Robots” is light years ahead of its predecessor. I mean, just look at this thing, will ya? It’s a wondrous world inhabited by all manner of living mechanical beings, who apparently have based their entire society on Rube Goldberg contraptions. The highlight of the film is a trip through Robot City inside a pinball of sorts, which rockets our hero around town with the help of slides, springs, and a giant hammer. It’s an explosion of invention.

The film is crammed with moments like this, bits of wonder that get the viewer stretching to see what delight is hiding in the background. Granted, the story falls to the side, but this is forgivable when there’s just so much energy at work in the art department. In fact, the animation is the true star of the movie. Everything here is vibrant and eye-popping, with an impressive attention to detail (you can spend days looking for every last nut and bolt in the endless array of machinery). There’s a crisp look to even the rustiest of robots, matching the movie’s light, upbeat tone.

I’d have loved to have been able to sit in on the design meetings for this film, as I would have had a chance to see imaginations soar. You see, most of the robot characters here are worn-down models who rely heavily on “hand-me-downs” and other found objects as spare parts. The result is a series of characters that look like the result of crazed tinkering: one has sink stoppers for ears; for others, clocks, thermometers, and other gauges stand in for eyes. And then there’s the robot who works as a dishwasher in a diner… by actually being a dishwasher.

The backgrounds are even better, a city overflowing with business. In a mechanical world, things are always happening, and the more, the better. It’s all one big flight of fancy, and all this eye candy wins plenty of big smiles. Even when the story begins to slip off its track, at least you know you’ll be in for some visual delights.

Although let’s not slight the writers entirely. The sometimes-they’re-great, sometimes-they’re-pure-evil writing team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (everything from “Splash” and “Parenthood” - yay! - to “Fathers’ Day” and “Where the Heart Is” - boo!) put a fine polish on Jim McClain and Ron Mita’s story about good-hearted inventor robot Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) who ventures to Robot City to make it big, only to uncover a scheme from slick tycoon Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) to do away with all outmoded robots. Fluff? Sure. Likable? Yup.

If nothing else, it manages to keep grown-ups as interested as the kids. It’s fast without being too frantic, funny without being too pushy (although we do get the inevitable failed pop culture references, and a fart joke scene may put off many a parent). It’s a light, quick adventure with medium ambitions, and that’s alright.

And while we may lament the inclusion of all those pop references and poop gags, the script does manage to sneak in a fair share of wit. This is evident right in the early scenes, when Rodney’s parents prepare for the arrival of their new baby. (“The fun’s in making the baby” has a whole new meaning here.) The writers had a lot of fun converting our world into robot world, and it shows. While not as crackling as other recent cartoons, there are enough usable punchlines here to make “Robots” a nice little comedy.

As for the voice cast, it’s yet another big name lineup - gone forever, it seems, are the days when professional voice actors could land lead roles in such works. Here, it’s a mixed bag. McGregor does a great job with his aw shucks, naďve small town boy part, putting enough liveliness into his voice that he helps sell the character as a likable hero. Meanwhile, Kinnear makes for a fine corporate scumbag; Mel Brooks brings some zest as Rodney’s role model; and whaddya know, even the usually irritating Amanda Bynes works out here, playing a spunky kid sister.

On the downside, however, we also get Halle Berry as what I think was supposed to be a love interest of sorts for Rodney, although the part is far too underwritten. (How does this happen to Berry, that even in a cartoon, she lands the crappy throwaway role?) The actress brings nothing to the film, nor does the character, which probably could have been written out without any real effect on the plot. For this, she gets second billing?

And then we come to Robin Williams. You figure the filmmakers hired him because he’s Robin Williams, and maybe he’ll bring a little bit of that “Aladdin” magic with him. But that could have backfired, since his role, the rundown tramp ’bot Fender, isn’t built to be quite so manic as Genie was. Fortunately, Williams restrains himself to just a few ad libbed rampages, several of which are actually pretty funny. And even though his character eventually lands himself in a limp, overlong “Singin’ In the Rain” parody (don’t ask) and, later, a horrible, overlong Britney Spears reference (seriously, don’t ask), these can’t be blamed on Williams, who in fact puts out, in his mellower scenes, a rather fine performance.

But then, we come back to the story, which fizzles in too many spots for it to reach the heights of, say, any Pixar movie. But it still works enough, and, like “Shark Tale” (which wasn’t great, but wasn’t nearly as awful as many have claimed), it can make do as passable kiddie entertainment - a few good jokes, some crisp action, a lesson or two learned, nothing more. Which is a shame, because as animation, it’s brilliant. If only the story was as sharp.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11795&reviewer=392
originally posted: 03/10/05 23:40:30
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User Comments

4/05/12 SEAN DUTRA weak form the company unenjoyable 2 stars
2/27/12 Sariah It is really cute at the beginning and is visually pleasing but it lacks story 3 stars
12/31/08 Sully my 7 yr old loved it....I almost fell asleep.... 4 stars
6/25/08 Mario Good movie, but its nothing special. 4 stars
10/04/07 Jodi We love it. Not sure what people expect from a childs movie. It was funny & Visual! 5 stars
7/01/06 George Great looking movie with nothing inside 3 stars
5/05/06 dionwr Visually wonderful with forgettable story 3 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A Meh. Visually stunning, but soulless. 3 stars
5/01/06 David Cornelius see above review 3 stars
5/01/06 HBS-SH connelly's cans 3 stars
4/21/06 Jack Very Dissapointing 3 stars
3/27/06 Brian Meyer Another discharge from the Dreamworks CGI playbook 1 stars
1/06/06 JM Synth People seem to pre-judge this on the fact its not pixar, but this was actually pretty good 4 stars
12/23/05 Michele cute and funny 4 stars
10/15/05 Quigley the story is undeveloped, but williams was awesome and the movie visually stunning 3 stars
9/29/05 tatum Nice visuals, dry story 3 stars
9/26/05 rafi Great ! 5 stars
9/20/05 Jonathon Holmes Robin Willams saves this predictable screenplay 3 stars
9/07/05 Tom Burns A very imaginative and enjoyable film. Robin Williams was great. 4 stars
8/29/05 ES Better than Valiant but ultimately its no Shrek 3 stars
8/08/05 Del Not bad. 3 stars
7/03/05 Jay Norris Fabulously Family Fun! 5 stars
6/29/05 John Ay Enjoyable for adults and children. Robin Williams was a riot as always. 5 stars
6/10/05 Lucy Screw you this was hilarious. Everyone nailed it. Especially Mrs. Trumbly as Big Weld! 5 stars
5/02/05 Gary Good effects but ultimately not satisfying 4 stars
4/30/05 Alyson Loved the movie and feelings between the characters. Ewan made me love RodneyC. 5 stars
4/24/05 Quigley lacked heart and tons of laughs, but there were its moments. Robin Williams was awesome! 3 stars
4/16/05 iteachpc Very good movie; we enjoyed it! 4 stars
4/06/05 drfardook Its a corporate children's movie. Smoke a joint if you're over 11 and its ok. 3 stars
4/03/05 Smitty Saw it at IMAX - the plot is boring but the movie is visually stunning 4 stars
4/03/05 M if it wasnt for robin this would of been straight to video! 3 stars
4/01/05 irene diaz Not funny, my kid got bored and I did too 2 stars
3/25/05 Greg Ursic Oh Robin, where is the wit? A blah movie at best with little for adults or kids. 2 stars
3/24/05 Chance Had the potential to be really good 3 stars
3/24/05 malcontent clunkier than nemo, more eye-popping than monsters inc. 3 stars
3/24/05 KingNeutron Going to be a classic; but Brooks wasn't convincing. RWilliams was awesome as usual, tho. 5 stars
3/23/05 monnilove cute interesting , not a must see again though 4 stars
3/21/05 Kevin Rose Good kids movie. 3 stars
3/20/05 Elizabeth S Found it a bit boring -- characters aren't very engaging. 3 stars
3/19/05 Mark McLeod It's alright in IMAX but still not as good as a Pixar movie 3 stars
3/18/05 PAMELA HANSEN you have to be a kid at heart to like this movie laughed all night long i loved it 5 stars
3/17/05 felicia very humorous movie 4 stars
3/17/05 Tyrantis Would have been better if it had less characters and more character development. 3 stars
3/17/05 mott the drupal fun Fun FUN 5 stars
3/15/05 Andrea Really cute! Funny, too - altho lots of "bathroom" humor for the 12 year old set. 4 stars
3/14/05 Kenneth Silver Movie where animation wins over plot, could use a heart 3 stars
3/13/05 Jeff Anderson Visually eye-catching & sometimes funny, but a mean cruel edge & a weak script KILL IT!!!!! 2 stars
3/13/05 Ryan Nearly Nemo, slow starter... 3 stars
3/12/05 Melina Visually stunning, cute and funny 4 stars
3/11/05 brody not the greatest but good for kids, kind of silly 3 stars
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  11-Mar-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 27-Sep-2005



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