Robots couples Blue Sky's proven track record with Ice Age, a compelling premise, and an impressive roster of "A-list" actors (plus a fair number of celebrity cameos) voicing mostly cute characters. Alas, even Robin Williams' comedic genius can't salvage a weak, misguided script. This could have been something on the level of Futurama; instead, we got a poor remake of Antz.
The simple, entirely predictable coming-of-age story sets up a parable about corporate greed pushing an agenda of profit over social responsibility, appearance over citizenship, conformity over individual achievement. The filmmakers unashamedly cut this with a barrage of thinly disguised product placements, costume changes, and gratuitous musical interludes (no doubt to pad the soundtrack album), then hammer "family values" throughout. Mallet-to-the-crotch, fart jokes, spousal abuse, and allusions to suicide take the place of actually funny material. The ostensible moral lesson loses out to some darker messages:
- don't believe everything you see on television (duh);
- someone is always eager to crush your spirit;
- you'll never amount to anything if you try go it alone;
- leadership is a rare quality;
- standing out makes you a target;
- ordinary people will try to take advantage of you;
- mean people will take advantage of you;
- bullies can push people around for a long time and get away with it;
- there's no success without humiliation;
- neither government nor organized religion really care much about the plight of the underclass;
- men are intrinsically stupider than women;
- women with power must be crazy;
- excessively feminine women are feted;
- insufficiently feminine women meet tragic ends;
- breasts make you popular;
- power tools are dangerous in the wrong hands;
- masses will follow you if you have breasts and power tools;
- all you need to triumph over injustice is a big enough posse and a sugar daddy;
- no one will ever truly love you if you have a fat ass--except somebody with an even fatter one.
I can't quite identify this film's intended audience, although I suspect it would be well-received among politically "conservative" college students. Adults will be bored, teens won't pick up most of the references, much of the humor isn't appropriate for children, and some scenes may be too scary for the very young.
If you've seen the trailers and the promotional clips, you've caught pretty much all of the best scenes. Although the film is beautifully rendered, there's no need to watch it on the big screen--wait for this one to come out on DVD. Or skip it entirely and rent Bicentennial Man or last year's I, Robot.
Rite Aid already has the toys marked down 25%.