Rodney Copperbottom is an ordinary robot with big dreams. Though he is the son of a humble dishwasher, he is convinced he can make the world a better place with his inventions. The source of his conviction is a TV show hosted by Mr Bigweld, the kindly owner of Bigweld Corporation, the company that supplies all robots with their vital spare parts. In his show Mr Bigweld invites all robot inventors to pay him a visit and promises to hear their ideas. So, as soon as he is fully grown (or, to be more precise, built), Rodney sets out for Robot City, his first invention in hand. But he finds that Bigweld Corporation has been taken over by an avaricious youngster named Ratchet, who plans to scrap all the older robots who cannot afford his shiny new range of "upgrades". True to form Rodney bands together with a motley crew of misfits called the Rusties and sets out to bring Mr Bigweld out of retirement and foil Ratchet's evil plans.Review:
"Robots" is the ultimate triumph of good looks over sense. A visual masterpiece, the attention to detail and complexity packed into every frame of the film are nothing short of astounding. This painstaking approach lends the world of the film an air of visual authenticity - no mean feat when you consider that it is, as the filmmakers are so fond of pointing out, and entirely "constructed" world. "It's not a movie set in the ice age, or about insects or fish. There were no reference points to draw from," says director Chris Wedge in a rather bitchy swipe at his competitors Pixar and Dreamworks.
By contrast the plot is as predictable as mud. A young hero sets out to fulfil his quest, and must thwart the villains who are set against him. Though they are powerful, he is armed with a good heart and will overcome... etcetera etcetera. Whether they intend to or not, Wedge and his Blue Sky Studios put visuals first, "cute" humour second and the story a distant third. This is in sharp contrast to studios like Pixar who have always prided themselves on "putting the story first".But aren't movies a predominantly visual medium? Yes, of course, but without a strong plot they may as well be amusement park rides - good for quick thrills but ultimately hollow. A rollercoaster is fun for 45 seconds, but if you rode it for two hours it would get boring, if not sickening. And that's what "Robots" amounts to - a 90-minute visual rollercoaster with zero emotional resonance.If I'd talked about emotional resonance in animated features just a decade ago it would have seemed silly. But that was before Pixar and Dreamworks really kicked into gear. Movies like "Toy Story", "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles" have raised the bar. They are films that people of all ages identify with and love, and not just "family" movies that parents can sit through without gouging their own eyes out. It's hard to see how anyone could identify with "Robots", as pretty and polished as it may be.This is particularly sad when you remember that Blue Sky's first success, "Ice Age", was full of madcap charm and emotional warmth. You could still sense Wedge's visual bias, but it didn't overwhelm the action of the film. The story was a bit thin, but at least it was original and fresh.
Strangely the film's cause isn't helped by its manifestly talented cast of voice actors. With Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, Halle Berry, Mel Brookes and many more on call, you might expect some quality voice acting to shore up the oatmeal plot. And yet not one of the characters manages any kind of charm or even memorability. Robin Williams gives the only standout performance by virtue of overacting to the point of annoyance. Deprived of the clever writing and elastic facial expressions of the loveable genie he played so brilliantly in "Alladin", Williams resorts to turning up the volume until we wish he would just shut up.
So should you avoid "Robots" at all costs? Absolutely not. It's worth the price of admission just to see the marvels of the robot world in action. Content yourself with watching the movie for the "Oooh, wow!" scenes, and for the constant stream of clever visual puns. Just don't expect anything more from this cold metallic marvel. Every bolt, every paint chip, every ray of light may be in perfect place, but its soul is missing in action.- By Alistair Fairweather
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