Movie Review: Robots too mechanical for adults to laugh

Perhaps we’ve come to expect too much from animated movies. Over the past several years, the whole idea of the animated feature turned on its head. We’ve been spoiled with movies like Monsters Inc., Shrek, and The Incredible, which were all sufficiently silly for the kids, but have the intelligence and wit for the grown-up crowd.

Their success is both a blessing and a curse, setting the bar incredibly high for a genre once dominated by films that, like Trix, were strictly for kids. For better or worse, Robots takes us back to those days.

The basic premise of the movie is standard fare. A young robot named Rodney Copperbottom (Ewan McGregor) leaves his small town for the big city (the uncreatively named Robot City) to fulfill his dreams, only to have them momentarily crushed.

After some brief soul searching and one too many inspirational speeches, everything works out in the end, concluding with the now mandatory break dance scene before the final credits roll. Along his journey, Rodney meets all kinds of allegedly kooky characters, most notably the movie’s saving grace, the Robin Williams’ voiced Fender. Williams’ character hits just enough funny one-liners to keep the movie flowing from one anvil-sized plot point to the next, all the way through to the end.

From the outset, Robots fails to live up to the standards of the aforementioned recent animated classics. Showing none of the pop-culture savvy of Shrek, Robots is one-half fart jokes and one-half overwrought sentimentality. Believe it or not, the movie manages to leave some questions unanswered like, who does Rodney end up with in the end? Is it Cappy (Halle Berry) or Piper (Amanda Bynes)? Will this vague love triangle never be resolved? Or does this mean I have to wait for the straight-to-DVD release of Robots 2 to find out? A less than exciting cliff-hanger, but at least there is something to think about after the movie ends.

Maybe it’s unfair to label the movie as too infantile, after all the movie knows its target audience. As far as kids movies go, Robots really isn’t bad. But given the talented cast and the string of recent animated hits, it is disappointing how straight the filmmakers play it.

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