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ROBOTS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Voices: Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks, Amanda Bynes, Drew Carey, Jim Broadbent, Robin Williams
Directors: Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 89 Minutes
Release Date: September 27, 2005

“When was the last time you got oiled?”

“Yeah, I can’t really answer that in front of my kid sister.”

Film ***

Ever since they’re Ice Age dazzled me more than three years ago, I was wondering when the folks at Blue Sky Studios would resurface with yet another visually dazzling animated piece. They have done so in the form of Robots, which is certainly one spectacular looking movie. The world its characters inhabit is displayed in what I can only describe as animated perfection.

This movie does for robots what Finding Nemo did for underwater wildlife. An entire world unfolds before our eyes in the kind of beauty that computer animation is capable of. This is a world inhabited by robots that walk, talk and think like humans, only, they’re not humans. Funny, huh?

The movie opens with a male robot announcing to the citizens of Rivet Town that he’s going to be a father. He gets home, and his wife tells him that he missed the delivery, but to not worry, because making a baby is the fun part. No it’s not a dirty reference; a baby robot is made through construction. It’s a clever joke that sets the tone for the smart humor of the movie.

The baby robot that is made is Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor). As Rodney grows over the years, he is given additional “spare parts” for every year he gets older. He finds a knack for inventing, and after graduating high school, Rodney wants to become a renowned inventor at Robot City. Only he finds himself stuck working as a restaurant dishwasher with his dad.

But Rodney is determined to live out his dream, and to make his parents proud. His father buys him a ticket to Robot City, and Rodney is soon on his way to hopefully make a name for himself at Big Weld Industries, headed by wealthy tycoon Mr. Big Weld (voiced by Mel Brooks). But upon his arrival, Rodney finds several difficulties within the city.

The first of many is named Fender, voiced by Robin Williams in a performance that does the unthinkable; it surpasses his performance in Aladdin. Fender is a friendly, but motor mouthed con artist, who quickly befriends Rodney, although Rodney would just like him to go away. But then again, he needs someone who knows the city, especially after he is rejected at the front gates of Big Weld Industries.

As it turns out, Big Weld himself is missing from the picture at the workplace. A ruthless replacement named Ratchet (voiced by Greg Kinnear), is hatching a plan to do away with inventors and simply make a population of robots just like him, only upgraded. Actually, Ratchet’s evil mother (voiced by Jim Broadbent) is behind the scheme, as Ratchet himself is doing the dirty work.

Robots gets its entertainment value from visuals, incredibly funny jokes, and occasional action scenes which are nothing short of astounding. The screenplay by comedy vets Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel is filled left and right with pop culture references, as well as sly spontaneous jokes. Example; Rodney, who starts up a service of fixing up robots, says, “Who wants to get fixed?” to which a robot dog reacts with horror.

And among all the animated action sequences I’ve ever witnessed, this movie happens to contain one of the most amazing. It involves a high speed chase down a metal freeway, where Rodney is attached to a magnetic object controlled by Ratchet. Fender and company speed up to catch up and save him.

Though the story at heart is a mostly simple one, and the overall effect doesn’t match something like The Incredibles, Robots is still nonetheless a dazzling experience. The beautiful animation, blended with the energetic performance, especially from Mr. Williams, make for a top notch piece of family entertainment.

Video ****

What we have here is indeed a leading candidate for Best Video quality in this year’s DMC Awards. The stunning computer animation shines even brighter in this outstanding anamorphic presentation. The amazing detail in the film’s images result in even more detail in the DVD format. Not a single image flaw in sight, which is hardly ever the case in a movie like this. Fox has made quite an accomplishment with this release.

Audio ****

Likewise for the audio. The stunning 5.1 mix, offered in both Dolby Digital and DTS, provides one amazing sound experience. All of the jaw-dropping technical qualities that come along with a computer-animated movie are showcased in this presentation. All of the channels get equal work here, especially in sequences of action, physical comedy, and those set in larger than life settings, which this movie has plenty of. A most marvelous job, to say the least.

Features ****

Fox has truly composed a disc of robotic proportions! Featured on this disc are two commentary tracks; the first with director Chris Wedge and producer William Joyce, the second is a technical director and animated director commentary. Also included is a new animated short titled, “Aunt Booty’s Tour of Booty”, deleted scenes with optional director commentary, two featurettes, “You Can Shine No Matter What You’re Made Of” and a “Blue Man Group” featurette. Lastly, there’s an exclusive Inside Look at the Making of Ice Age 2, an Xbox Exclusive Multi-Player Racing Game, Set-Top Games and Character Bios.

Summary:

Robots is sheer animated fun! The Makers of Ice Age have succeeded once again in blended state of the art animation with contemporary laughs to make for a surefire choice for terrific family entertainment. It’s also one of the best all around DVDs to come out this year!

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