Saturday, October 8, 2005

MOVIES: 'Robots'

Here's a video review to liven up your Friday:


The visually amazing but story-deprived “Robots” takes place in a world populated entirely by mechanical beings, from the dogs to the postman to babies to businessmen.

In the village of Rivet Town, young idealistic Rodney Copperbottom has big dreams of moving to Robot City and working for the famed robot tycoon Big Weld.

The plucky robot sets off on his own, but discovers things in the big town aren’t what he hoped, with corrupt and secretive new bosses in control of Big Weld’s company and a brewing war between ultra-modern robots trying to make a buck selling expensive upgrades, and those who are happy just to be who they are. Copperbottom hooks up with a group of scrappy fellow robots to find out what’s up in Robot City.

No doubt about it, the computer-animated “Robots” is a visually dazzling work of art. I could have turned the sound off and just admired the retro-yet-modern design of sprawling Robot City, the slick animation and creative clanky critters on screen. Actually, I might have enjoyed it a little more as a silent movie.

I’ll never understand how zillions of dollars can be spent on a movie like “Robots,” which has a fascinating premise, and yet the story shows so little inspiration. “Robots” ends up utterly formulaic; without the stunning setting, it’s just another patented entry in a never-ending lineup of predictable cartoons.

“Robots” — by Fox Animation, rather than Disney or Pixar — doesn’t come close to modern animated classics like “The Incredibles” or “Finding Nemo.” The reliance on pandering bodily-function humor is particularly rusty — were there fart jokes in “Bambi” or “The Lion King” that I missed? Don’t get me wrong, I like crude humor like any dude, but it just seems unnecessary in a cartoon aimed at kids.

The characters are also a bit threadbare — Ewan McGregor lends a voice to Copperbottom, but there’s barely any character there for him to play, just another bland “can-do” Disney-style hero. The supporting characters are more interesting, such as a sleazy Greg Kinnear as the shiny villain Ratchet.

Robin Williams voices Fender, a wisecracking, frequently annoying sidekick robot that’s basically a metallic version of his “Aladdin” character, only not so funny.

Still, it’s kind of cool to look at “Robots,” if you turn off your brain. But it certainly could’ve aimed higher than it does.
**1/2 of four

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