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Robots (2005)

Robots: The IMAX Experience

Repair for adventure!

Directed by:

Carlos Saldanha

Chris Wedge

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 91 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: U

Country: United States

In years to come, the current era will be regarded as a golden period of animation – of that I have absolutely no doubt. From the prolific genius of Pixar to their Shrek-producing rivals over at Dreamworks, big-screen toons have never been as lively, as colourful, as well-written, as visually-splendid or as openly accessible to all ages as they are today. The likes of Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and those afore-mentioned Shrek movies have raised the bar higher than it’s ever been before, to the point that simply keeping up has become a challenge that even the mighty Disney has struggled to meet.

But a small CGI studio called Blue Sky – working as an off-shoot of 20th Century Fox – gave the big boys something to think about back in 2002 when they came out of nowhere with the marvellous Ice Age. Now, in 2005, they look well on course for a repeat of that success with metallic adventure ‘Robots’.

Set in a fantastical world populated entirely by the machines of the title, it’s the story of wannabe-inventor Rodney Copperbottom (voiced – practically unrecognisably – by Ewan McGregor). He leaves his family home in Rivet Town to head for the bustling metropolis of Robot City, where he plans to get a job working for enigmatic gadget mogul Bigweld (Mel Brooks). The only trouble is, when he finally gets there he discovers big industry isn’t all it’s made out to be on the telly, and it’s not long before he’s making himself a powerful enemy in the shape of scheming corporate executive Ratchet (Greg Kinnear, arguably putting in the best shift of the high-profile voiceover cast).

Ironically for a tale revolving around the necessitous gathering of scrap metal and spare parts, many of the characters seem like cut-and-shut jobs taken from other flicks (Bigweld’s similarities to the Wizard of Oz are plain for all to see, and Ratchet’s cackling mother Madame Gasket – voiced by a gender-crossing Jim Broadbent – gives a definite nod in the direction of Oogie Boogie from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’). It’s true, as well, that the plot itself isn’t the best or the most original. But the robot gimmick works fantastically well, and opens up a mine of previously untapped comic material.

From an aesthetic point of view, there’s been so much care and attention put into creating the robot world that only a tin man could fail to appreciate it. There’s one particularly fantastic scene where Rodney and pal Fender (a slightly-underused Robin Williams) are catapulted through the city in a series of wildly imaginative whirligigs and thingmabobs, and later on an almost-as-spectacular segment revels in collapsing a roomful of dominos and standing back to watch the result.

‘Robots’ is far from faultless, but it’s quirky, imaginative, absolutely brilliant to look at and – most importantly – a lot of fun. If nothing else, it’s a dead cert to keep Pixar on their toes.

It's Got: A free slinky for the young ‘uns. And also for film critics who ask nicely.

It Needs: Plenty of oil.

Alternatives:

Batteries Not Included, I, Robot, Short Circuit, The Iron Giant

Summary

A nice and shiny slice of cartoon wizardry, this robostory does exactly what it says on the tin.

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