2006-03-30 12:58


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.


"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

Fox's latest animated extravaganza is clever, expensive and painstakingly polished - but it's got no soul.

Mo 2005/03/24 1:41 PM
WTF Dude. what was your childhood like? I feel so sorry for you. Everything you've ever reviewed got a bad rating, and yet, everyone i know enjoyed it. Can you imagine going to the movies with your 5 year old, and he wants to know everything about the plot, cause its not simple enough? The movie is an animation. its meant for kids. Come on M-Web. At least get a guy with a personality to review some movies. Cause this dude just makes it depressing when its supposed to be fun. All movies Alistair does not like
Alistair Fairweather 2005/03/24 2:04 PM
Positive reviews On the contrary Mo, I recently gave 5 stars to "Finding Neverland", 4 stars to "Being Julia" and 3 stars to 'Racing Stripes". Also, you may notice I gave this movie 3 stars - an above average rating. I'm a movie critic - it's my job to sift the really good stuff out of the average stuff and the rubbish. If you don't agree with me, that's fair enough, but to attack me personally on a forum is just downright childish. Kinsey
Shevi 2005/03/24 2:30 PM
I walked out Seriously, I walked out two thirds of the way through Robots - it felt 'constructed' and unnatural. A disappointment, especially since I loved Ice Age (same company). It's fine for kids, but won't charm adults like some other animated films. Finding Neverland
melon 2005/03/25 3:27 PM
Robots I think it was really cool! But not the type of thing to watch if you wanna get serious. Its a fun-loving, relaxing movie with excellent animation and had me laughing through out! Id recommend Constantine
oGuy 2005/03/29 11:08 AM
Just a bunch of 1's and 0's Noooo..what has become of Robin Williams??? my once humour king, has become a slapstick-slave. This mite be the death of the animated movie! (i hope not) im seriously considering forwarding sum of my own bland, predictable, cliched scripts if THIS is deemed kosher! i anxiosuly await ICE-AGE 2, sid the sloth will never let me down..or will he? :( you pass on this and wait for ICE-AGE 2
Mo 2005/03/30 12:16 PM
WHAT? What? i loved the movie. In fact, i watched it once with my best friend, and then again with my girlfriend and another couple. and we all agreed that we cannot wait for this movie to come on DVD. Life is so boring as it is, now people like you all take the fun out of a perfectly funny movie. Constructed? Unnatural? and its not supposed to be serious. THIS WORLD IS DOOMED. FUN PEOPLE NO LONGER EXIST!! Alistair. Sorry if i offended you. i just can't take it when people take the piss out of something thats supposed to make life more fun. cause we need to laugh. Robots
L-Star 2007/03/08 7:26 PM
rodney rules robots robots is different in a good way. they make it look as if robots are just like humans which is terrific! 1 of my fave films, I give Robots 100% out of 100%! My favourite character is Cappy.
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