Sunday, March 27, 2005

Robots Isn't Clunky

On Saturday, my sister and I went to see Robots, the new animated film from Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox. Robots tells the story of Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor), a young inventor who leaves his small town and heads to Robot City. He hopes to see Bigweld (voiced by Mel Brooks), the leader of a company that makes robot parts who is well-known for being open-minded to new ideas. Unfortunately for Rodney, he finds out that the company is now being run by Ratchet (voiced by Greg Kinnear), a money hungry robot who plots to make all robots buy upgrades and destroy any and all obsolete (or as they say in the movie "outmoded") robots. Rodney teams up with a ragtag group of "outmoded" robots including Fender (voiced by Robin Williams), his sister Piper (voiced by Amanda Bynes), and the loving "Aunt" Fannie (voiced by Jennifer Coolidge) to stop Ratchet and his mother (voiced by Jim, that's not a typo) from executing their evil plan.

Robots reminded me of other animated films I've seen. There are elements of the Shrek films' message of liking who you are. The main character is an inventor, just like Flik in A Bug's Life. Similar to both Monsters, Inc. and Shark Tale, there is a large, wonderful city populated with tons of non-humans. Robots has a mascot in Wonderbot just like Blue Sky Studios' other film, Ice Age, had one with Scrat (both characters were voiced by director Chris Wedge). And just like the Shrek films and Shark Tale, pop culture references are in abundance. Even with all the familiar elements in this film (including the evil corporate villain and the "Follow Your Dreams" theme), Robots manages to be its own film, and a fun one at that.

One of the best things about this film is its look. With designs by William Joyce (of Rolie Polie Olie fame), Robots doesn't look like any other animated film that preceded it. There is a ton of detail in the characters and no two look alike. The animation is a definite step up from Blue Sky's last film, Ice Age. Although the "Crosstown Express" sequence was touted as one of the best sequences in the film, I was really impressed by a scene, later on in the film, that featured dominoes. It's not that long, but I was enthralled by it and wondered just how long it took for them to do that.

While the story isn't exactly revolutionary, Robots has a nice, clever sense of humor that makes it work. Robin Williams is at his goofy best voicing Fender as he rattles off lines that most certainly were improv. Ewan McGregor does a good job as Rodney, but the smaller roles upstage him greatly. The most surprisingly funny character was Tim The Doorman, voiced by Paul Giamatti of Sideways fame. Paul voices Tim as someone who sounds a lot nicer than he actually is. The pop culture humor was funny and kept to a minimum of sorts (compared to Shrek 2 or Shark Tale, that is). Also, this film isn't above fart jokes (it is aimed at kids, after all). However, I have to admit that I was taken back to childhood with one particular fart gag. I won't spoil the gag but needless to say, I think it might be the funniest fart joke I've seen in a movie...ever. One of the few flaws in this movie was that Halle Berry's character was absolutely unnecessary. She was only there to provide a love interest for the main character. I guess we'll have to wait for Halle to really show her acting chops in an animated film.

Robots is a fun little movie. It made me laugh and smile as I watched it. Blue Sky Studios has proved with this film that they deserve a spot next to Pixar and Dreamworks in the computer animated film race. Ice Age was no fluke. Robots is definitely a good movie to see this Easter weekend.

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