Robots

2005, Movie, PG, 89 mins

Review

ROBOTS
starstarstarstar
Though the script is best described as mechanical and it takes a while to get into gear, this computer-generated "reach for the stars" story is a well-calibrated piece of entertainment. When it comes to their child, Rodney (Ewan McGregor), the loving, working-class Copperbottoms (Stanley Tucci, Dianne Wiest) thrill to the words "some assembly required"; upgrade by upgrade, they realize that Rodney is far more than the sum of his spare and hand-me-down parts. An aspiring inventor, Rodney idolizes TV-personality Mr. Bigweld (Mel Brooks), a self-made tycoon whose robotarian mantra — "You can shine no matter what you're made of!" — encourages every little gearhead to believe in his or her own machine dreams. Rodney leaves cozy little Rivet Town for Robot City in hopes of showing Mr. Bigweld his not-quite perfected Wonderbot, a helpful little teapot with stress-management issues. But disappointment awaits: After a wild, Rube Goldbergian train trip with motormouth Fender (a not-too-far over the top Robin Williams), Rodney discovers that there's been a corporate takeover at Bigweld Industries and the super-shiny Phineas T. Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) has ousted Bigweld. Corporate-tool Ratchet has a cruel new motto — "Why be you, when you can be new?" — and big plans to sell expensive full-body upgrades to robots who can afford them and consign the rest to the scrap heap run by his mother, Madame Gasket (Jim Broadbent). Rodney decides to bring Mr. Bigweld out of hiding so he can set things straight, and in the meantime dedicates himself to keeping out-of-date robots in good working order. Word of his amazing fix-it abilities spreads quickly, and a clattering parade of mechanical men and women soon beats a path to his door. Helped by Fender, Fender's little sister, Piper (Amanda Bynes), and Aunt Fanny (Jennifer Coolidge), who lends new meaning to the term "junk in the trunk," Rodney assembles a plan to thwart Ratchet's wicked scheme. Directed by Chris Wedge (ICE AGE) and written by the truly odd combination of Babaloo Mandell, Lowell Ganz and playwright David Lindsey-Abaire (Fuddy Mears), this energetic, pun-laden feature abounds with meticulous visual details (production designer William Joyce created kid-friendly automaton Rolie Polie Olie), from peeling coats of paint to the robotized American Gothic painting on Fender's wall. They add depth and texture to this brightly-colored coming-of-age adventure, and help flesh out the notion that tin men aren't all heartless. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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