Animated film (2005). Blue Sky Studios/ 20th Century Fox. Directed by Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, based on a story by Ron Mita, Jim McClain and Mita. Cast includes Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Ewan McGregor and Robin Williams. 91 minutes. Colour.
Were it not for the quality of the CGI, one would be forgiven for thinking this example of committee-designed Edisonade had been released in the previous century. Rodney Copperbottom (McGregor) is a working-class Robot made of second-hand parts who dreams of doing more with his life than his dishwasher father. Inspired by his role model, the Inventor Bigweld (Brooks) – motto: "you can shine, no matter what you are made of" – Rodney leaves Rivet Town to seek his fortune in Robot City. On arrival, he finds that the purity of capitalism has been corrupted and fascist Dystopia looms.
As signalled by the title, the film never rises above the generic: Rodney learns life lessons, finds a severely under-used love interest (Berry) and triumphs over adversity. There is nothing to suggest that a revolution in children's feature animation had taken place ten years earlier with the release of Pixar's Toy Story (1995). Instead, with its lax script, soppy aspiration score, incongruous songs and bland design, Robots resembles the stranded second-string cartoons that once tried to ride on Disney's coat tails. A further throwback is provided by Robin Williams, who plays a version of the immensely irritating, hyperactive persona he honed as a comedian in the 1980s. The fact that this iteration is called Fender – bringing to mind Bender, the robot Antihero of Futurama (1999-2003, 2010-2013) – is both shameless and embarrassing. [ML]
see also: Cinema; Humour; Children's SF.
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