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Overall Rating
3.19

Awesome: 9.09%
Worth A Look: 19.19%
Average54.55%
Pretty Bad: 16.16%
Total Crap: 1.01%

8 reviews, 51 user ratings


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Robots
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by Jay Seaver

"I liked 'Robots'; but then, I really like robots."
3 stars

Look at that title: "Robots". I'll be that one word was bulk of the pitch to Fox, too. As in "do you know what's a natural for a computer animated feature? Robots." After all, they've got no hair, are made up of pretty basic geometric shapes, and can believably use simple color schemes; that has got to save on the processing power. Of course, "Robots" is hardly the first digitally-animated feature to suggest that sort of origin. Consider "Toy Story", "Antz", "A Bug's Life", or "SharkTale" (which ironically started life with a more story-oriented name, "Shark-Slayer").

The thoroughly mercenary origins suggested by the name don't disqualify "Robots" from being a good movie. Director Chris Wedge realizes his robot world as a place of bright colors, whimsical architecture, and a delightfully retro-futuristic design sense. It would be an even better movie if some of the five credited writers had stretched, coming up with something really unique and more consistently funny.

The story follows a relatively familiar pattern - young Rodney Copperbottom (voice of Ewan McGregor) comes to Robotropolis, hoping to make his fortune selling his idea for a little helper robot to Bigweld Industries. But it's no longer the open-to-innovation company presided over by the jovial, Walt Disney-like Bigweld (voice of Mel Brooks); now, the board room is filled with sleek, grey corporate robots, led by smooth, oily Ratchet (voice of Greg Kinnear). He throws Rodney out while trying to make the moves on Cappy (voice of Halle Berry), who doesn't like his plan to force robots to buy upgrades by no longer selling spare parts, and any robot who doesn't - well, they're an outmode, and need to be recycled. Meanwhile, Rodney falls in with a group of robots living at a boarding house, including spastic Fender (voice of Robin Williams), his sister Piper (voice of Amanda Bynes), and cynical Crank (voice of Drew Carey). When the local robots find out that Rodney can repair them and save them from the scrap heap operated by Madame Gasket (voice of Jim Broadbent), Ratchet starts to see him as a threat.

The best parts of the movie are the robot-specific stuff - the groaner Rodney's parents come up with about how making the baby is more fun than delivery, amused me, and I think anyone who has ever had an old anything that they've tried to keep working, whether it be a car or an old computer, will find something familiar in the plot. Making upgrade fatigue a matter of life and death is the cleverest idea the movie has, and I wish there was more in that vein. Yet, soon the movie is doing fart jokes. I've got no problem with fart jokes, personally, but what do robots fart for? For that matter, what do they fart with? Sure, I'll buy that they make male and female robots to emulate some lost memory of humanity, but breaking wind? And speaking of the male and female robots, having a boy robot end up with girl parts is funny once, but going back to that well later comes off as running out of ideas.

One of the most important elements in making a good animated feature - right up there with a good screenplay, really - is how the film is designed. I love the way Wedge, along with production designed William Joyce and art director Steve Martino, go for a 1950s aesthetic in Rodney's hometown and much of Robotropolis. The characters look like old-fashioned tin toys; it's not hard to imagine springs inside. It's part of a mostly unified visual sense; household appliances, signs, and even the box baby Rodney comes in all share the same look. It also allows the character designers to use some wildly variant body types: The Copperbottoms, Fender, and Piper are basically humanoid, but Crank has wheels, "Aunt Fanny" an amazingly prodigious posterior, and Bigweld is practically a sphere. The design falters a bit with the corporate 'bots like Ratchet and Cappy; the sleek grey lines and mass-manufactured look fit, but the lack of individuality makes it hard for Cappy to project much warmth or separate herself from the others with similar design.

Robotropolis itself is a nifty enough achievement. The Rube Goldberg contraption that Rodney and Fender use to leave the train station is throughly gratuitous, but perfectly reasonable if you posit that this civilization evolved from toys. Somewhat less exciting is the big final action scene, which takes place in Madame Gasket's scrap yard and just goes on and on, filled with gags which are only rarely memorable.

Similarly, a little Robin Williams goes a long way, but at least Williams has a distinctive, expressive voice, as does Drew Carey and Mel Brooks. I'm not certain what the point of casting Halle Berry in an animated movie is; I don't hate her, but I can't say her voice is a reason I've gone to a movie. MacGregor's a decent everyman lead, but my favorite vocal performance is probably Paul Giamatti as Tim, the tiny puppet-like robot who watches the gate to Bigweld Industries (it doesn't hurt that he's written as a cute little character who is a complete jerk).

If I'm honest, I'm probably rating "Robots" a little highly here; it's a pretty thoroughly mediocre movie with problems. But I like robots, and I like the design featured in the movie. Is that enough to make it a good movie? No, not really, but it's enough for me to like it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11795&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/23/05 04:18:01
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User Comments

4/06/12 SEAN DUTRA weak form the company unenjoyable 2 stars
2/28/12 Sariah It is really cute at the beginning and is visually pleasing but it lacks story 3 stars
1/01/09 Sully my 7 yr old loved it....I almost fell asleep.... 4 stars
6/26/08 Mario Good movie, but its nothing special. 4 stars
5/25/08 PAUL SHORTT EVERYTHING AN ANIMATED FEATURE SHOULD BE 4 stars
10/05/07 Jodi We love it. Not sure what people expect from a childs movie. It was funny & Visual! 5 stars
7/02/06 George Great looking movie with nothing inside 3 stars
5/06/06 dionwr Visually wonderful with forgettable story 3 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A Meh. Visually stunning, but soulless. 3 stars
5/02/06 David Cornelius see above review 3 stars
5/02/06 HBS-SH connelly's cans 3 stars
4/22/06 Jack Very Dissapointing 3 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer Another discharge from the Dreamworks CGI playbook 1 stars
1/06/06 JM Synth People seem to pre-judge this on the fact its not pixar, but this was actually pretty good 4 stars
12/24/05 Michele cute and funny 4 stars
10/16/05 Quigley the story is undeveloped, but williams was awesome and the movie visually stunning 3 stars
9/29/05 tatum Nice visuals, dry story 3 stars
9/27/05 rafi Great ! 5 stars
9/21/05 Jonathon Holmes Robin Willams saves this predictable screenplay 3 stars
9/08/05 Tom Burns A very imaginative and enjoyable film. Robin Williams was great. 4 stars
8/30/05 ES Better than Valiant but ultimately its no Shrek 3 stars
8/08/05 Del Not bad. 3 stars
7/03/05 Jay Norris Fabulously Family Fun! 5 stars
6/30/05 John Ay Enjoyable for adults and children. Robin Williams was a riot as always. 5 stars
6/11/05 Lucy Screw you this was hilarious. Everyone nailed it. Especially Mrs. Trumbly as Big Weld! 5 stars
5/03/05 Gary Good effects but ultimately not satisfying 4 stars
5/01/05 Alyson Loved the movie and feelings between the characters. Ewan made me love RodneyC. 5 stars
4/25/05 Quigley lacked heart and tons of laughs, but there were its moments. Robin Williams was awesome! 3 stars
4/17/05 iteachpc Very good movie; we enjoyed it! 4 stars
4/07/05 drfardook Its a corporate children's movie. Smoke a joint if you're over 11 and its ok. 3 stars
4/04/05 Smitty Saw it at IMAX - the plot is boring but the movie is visually stunning 4 stars
4/03/05 M if it wasnt for robin this would of been straight to video! 3 stars
4/02/05 irene diaz Not funny, my kid got bored and I did too 2 stars
3/26/05 Greg Ursic Oh Robin, where is the wit? A blah movie at best with little for adults or kids. 2 stars
3/25/05 Chance Had the potential to be really good 3 stars
3/25/05 malcontent clunkier than nemo, more eye-popping than monsters inc. 3 stars
3/25/05 KingNeutron Going to be a classic; but Brooks wasn't convincing. RWilliams was awesome as usual, tho. 5 stars
3/24/05 monnilove cute interesting , not a must see again though 4 stars
3/22/05 Kevin Rose Good kids movie. 3 stars
3/21/05 Elizabeth S Found it a bit boring -- characters aren't very engaging. 3 stars
3/19/05 Mark McLeod It's alright in IMAX but still not as good as a Pixar movie 3 stars
3/19/05 PAMELA HANSEN you have to be a kid at heart to like this movie laughed all night long i loved it 5 stars
3/18/05 felicia very humorous movie 4 stars
3/18/05 Tyrantis Would have been better if it had less characters and more character development. 3 stars
3/17/05 mott the drupal fun Fun FUN 5 stars
3/16/05 Andrea Really cute! Funny, too - altho lots of "bathroom" humor for the 12 year old set. 4 stars
3/15/05 Kenneth Silver Movie where animation wins over plot, could use a heart 3 stars
3/14/05 Jeff Anderson Visually eye-catching & sometimes funny, but a mean cruel edge & a weak script KILL IT!!!!! 2 stars
3/13/05 Ryan Nearly Nemo, slow starter... 3 stars
3/13/05 Melina Visually stunning, cute and funny 4 stars
3/12/05 brody not the greatest but good for kids, kind of silly 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  11-Mar-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 27-Sep-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  24-Mar-2005




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