A review of “Robots” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG for suggestive humor

Run Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

 

 

Metropolis meets The Hudsucker Proxy in this inventive albeit screwy comedy.

Back in the day it was all about how you felt inside, a “you can shine no matter what you’re made of” world.  Under the auspices of Mr. Bigweld of Bigweld Industries (the Lee Iacocca of robots), Robot City was the place that dreams were made of, shiny rivets and all.

But there’s a new ‘bot in town.  Phineas T. Ratchet (voice of Greg Kinnear) is hatching a sinister plan for the poor old outmodes who require an occasional spare part. No more Mr. Goodwrench; the new regime requires scrap ‘bots to shell out for overpriced upgrades. “Why be you, when you can be new?”

Rodney Copperbottom (voice of Ewan McGregor) to the rescue, a small-time ‘bot with big-time dreams. With his parents’ loving support to fuel his molten fire, Rodney puts pedal to the metal all the way to Robot City in order to demonstrate his latest invention to idol Bigweld (voice of Mel Brooks), only to find his fantasy metropolis an ethical wasteland.

With “see a need, fill a need” sensibility intact, Rodney takes a monkey wrench to the sticky situation with the help of a wacky bucket o’bolts named Fender (Robin Williams) and a ratchety cast of creaky misfits.

Two-thirds of this visually stunning comedy is truly first-rate; futuristic cityscapes animated to cutting-edge perfection and a narrative paced like a well-oiled machine. Superb bits include an imaginative Rube Goldberg transportation montage, an amusing predicament involving metallic magnetism and history’s hippest domino effect.

But the cumulative effect is sensory overload, a mutiny of junkyard ‘bots taking it to the streets against progress and the soulless machines of the future. Character development in the form of lengthy running gags loses its luster.

Williams is allowed to cut loose; initially hilarious but ultimately over-the-top and overly familiar. McGregor’s Rodney C. is a hunka hunk of steel, sexy blue peepers conveying robotic va-va-voom.  When in gear Robots is well worth a look.