In a world populated by bots, Rodney Copperbottom (voice of Ewan McGregor) is an aspiring inventor, who leaves Rivet Town for Robot City, where he meets the misfit bot Fender (voice of Robin Williams), his feisty sister Piper Pinwheeler (Amanda Bynes) and irrepressible Aunt Fanny (voice of Jennifer Coolidge). But in the big city, Rodney's brilliant inventor idol, Bigweld (voice of Mel Brooks) is nowhere to be found; Phineas T. Ratchet (voice of Greg Kinnear) is running his company now, aiming to make profits from upgrades instead of selling spare parts to repair the bots. Eventually all the robots will become scrap and sent to his mother's chop shop (voice of Jim Broadbent). Rodney, meanwhile has met Cappy (voice of Halle Berry) and is inspired to save the robots.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Robots, like Shark Tale, is above all an animator's fantasy playground, in which clever and smart alec rub shoulders, as the unnatural world of robots is given all the trimmings and accessories of human cities. There is some fun in this, especially for the first ten minutes. But unlike Shark Tale, Robots doesn't have the schutzpah in the script department to pull it off. The writing lumbers while the animation soars. On the other hand, there are some great scenes, great voice performances and lots of inventive business.
Aimed at families, but primarily a children's film (for fairly sophisticated children, mind you) the film's all-star voice cast brings the most they can to the animated robot characters, whose eyebrows may be mechanical, but their mouths and eyes are humanly flexible.
Visually entertaining, the film's major flaw is in its heavy handed treatment of the story, the great American dream; everybody is somebody, you can do whatever you set your heart on (as long as you never give up) and doing things for feelgood reasons is better than doing things for profit. All rather ironic, considering the ticket prices ....So it is that 'see a need, fill a need' is good, but create a need to fill it is bad. This is the basic (er, simplistic) nuts and bolts of this mechanical story, in which a robot-populated world is threatened with having to upgrade to shiny new models, instead of just repairing themselves with spare parts.
As I say, it's meant for children, who are wise enough to ignore the claptrap and sink their teeth into the fun you can have with a robot world, where gizmos and whizz bangs take the place of transport vehicles. The film's bravura sequence, early on, involves a hair raising cross city ride for two, using every funky catapulting, sliding and propelling system known to (computer) man.
That's why the children probably won't notice that the two mothers in the film are either mousy suburban housewives who need hubby to control the child, or the ambition-driven, manipulative ogre mother from hell. Feminists won't like it, but to hell with that, these are robots, and not a real male in sight: the real insult is to film fans who reckon writers can do better than that. But don't listen to me: I'm just a boy whose intentions are good .....
Review by Louise Keller:
First there was Ice Age, and now comes Robots, a visually inventive animation with a high profile voice cast that delivers everything except heart. Set in a fantasy futuristic world where bots rule, the look of the film impresses, but despite some wonderful ideas, the magic is missing. The young target market may not put its finger intuitively on why Robots fails to hit the mark, but emotionally it is as hollow as the chest of the tin man.
The story is about a young bot, Rodney Copperbottom (voice of Ewan McGregor), who dreams of becoming a successful inventor. His first invention is designed to make life easier for his professional dish-washer father, but there is no future for him in Rivet Town, and he heads for the big smoke to meet his Idol, Bigweld (voice of Mel Brooks). If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere - of course they're talking about Robot City, a sky-scraper metropolis, where getting around is a little like being shot out of a giant pin ball machine. But roly poly, oversize Bigweld is nowhere to be found, and Phineas T. Ratchet (voice of Greg Kinnear) is running the company with a policy to abolish spare parts and replace them with upgrades.
This will mean every robot will sooner or later become obsolete, and become junk scrap in his mother's chop shop. This hellish Mom (voiced by Jim Broadbent) is the devil in armour, and could well terrify some youngsters. Rodney makes friends with Fender (Robin Williams is brilliant), Piper Pinwheeler (Amanda Bynes) and Aunt Fanny, a bow-lipped, pink creation voiced by Jennifer Tilly, so named because of her enormous rear. There's also a low-key romance between Halle Berry's alluring Cappy, as Rodney follows his dream, rescues Bigweld from his domino haven and saves all the robots from their impending fate as junk.
Williams and Coolidge keep the pace lively, but this terrific voice cast must have been sorely disappointed in the script, because the sharp lines are few and far between. There's one inspired moment when Ratchet shrieks 'Oh my gosh, I'm as crazy as my mother,' but the arm-fart jokes are tired and overdone. I enjoyed the film references ('a screw driver shaken, not stirred') and Rodney 'singing in the oil' instead of the rain is good fun.
Worth seeing for its eye-popping visuals, Robots is clean but a bit too squeaky.
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VOICES: Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks, Drew Carey, Amanda Bynes, Robin Williams, Jim Broadbent, Jennifer Coolidge, Paul Giamatti, Dan Hadeya, Stanley Tucci, Dianne Wiest
PRODUCER: Jerry Davis, John C. Donkin
DIRECTOR: Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha
SCRIPT: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, (story by Jim McClain, Ron Mita)
EDITOR: John Carnochan
MUSIC: John Powell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Joyce
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 24, 2005
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.