A review of “I, Robot” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

 

 

Chicago in the year 2035.  Converse All-Stars circa 2004 are the height of vintage, automobiles are self-propelling, and robots co-exist peacefully with man, obediently delivering FedEx packages and fetching the weekly garbage.

          Gritty homicide detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) dislikes the concept of machines taking up the slack, and carries his paranoia around like a suit of armor.  When robotics pioneer and Spooner friend Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell) does a nose-dive off of a high building, Spooner suspects that a robot is behind the death.

          Impossible, claim co-workers, since robots, according to the laws programmed into their hard drives, are incapable of harming human beings. 

          Suggested by the 1950 short story collection by Isaac Asimov, I, Robot has its heart and its technology in the right place.  The look is slick and stylized; one can’t help but admire a know-how that permits a generation of walking nuts-and-bolts to move effortlessly amongst men. 

The “largest robot distribution in history” is a marvel of computer-generated skill and the production design is near-flawless. The robots themselves are hyper-creepy and eerily calm in their ability to express something akin to emotion and perform the daily tasks we take for granted. 

But look beyond the CG flash and you’re left holding the bag, in this case a stultifying script and one-note storyline that pits man against machine sans serious rancor or imagination.

          Can’t fault Smith, an industry unto himself.  Will can stand perfectly still and generate hardcore heat.  He manages to transcend cheesy one-liners and smirky dialogue by the sheer force of his charisma. Bridget Moynahan as partner-in-crime cum robot programmer Susan Calvin doesn’t stand a chance. 

          As summer sci-fi thrillers go, Robot has the mindless stuff to get the job done, but doesn’t quite live up to its monumental potential.