A few words about . . . Robots

The film: Robots is without a doubt one of the most visually amazing movies I have ever seen. The world which the animators created (and believe me when I say it is fleshed out sufficiently to merit such a designation) is so rich with detail and life that I found myself staring at the screen in awe nearly the entire time. Then the characters opened their mouths, and the whole thing fell apart.

I wish I could say that the movie’s greatest sin is it’s totally pedestrian plot, with characters who fail to distinguish themselves in any manner beyond the usual “buddy movie” and “evil corporate bigwig” stereotypes. No, I think I could forgive that because, man, what amazing visuals! Even the wasted use of Robin Williams could be overlooked. No, what makes this movie one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen in recent months is that it squandered all of its potential on a storyline filled with juvenile bathroom humor.

“Is that it?” you say. Well, yeah. Call me a little overzealous, but I like kids’ animated films without all of the sex and bodily function jokes, thank you very much. Yes, I realize that Robots is rated PG, yadda yadda yadda, but I still don’t buy it. Want to know why? Just take a look at the competition: Pixar.

At Pixar they constantly say that the most important element of any movie is the story – the visuals are simply the medium of delivery. And you can tell that is true by the very absence of lowbrow material in their films. It just isn’t there. Sex and bodily function jokes, even mild, keep-’em-light-so-hopefully-they’ll-go-over-the-kids’-heads ones, are a lazy man’s way of writing a script. That’s all there is to it. And if I were a betting man (which I’m not), I’d wager that so long as PDI and Blue Sky (the creators of Shrek and Ice Age, respectively – Robots hails from the latter) continue to put that kind of garbage in their animated movies, they will never be as respected or profitable as Pixar. Now let’s just hope that Pixar continues to take the high road to show everyone else how it’s done.

The whole thing is a shame, really, because it’s painfully obvious that Blue Sky and 20th Century Fox pulled out all the stops to bring together some of the best talent in the business to create Robots. The voice cast is a star-studded line-up with names like Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Drew Carey, Greg Kinnear, Jay Leno, and the aforementioned Robin Williams (a long way from Aladdin with this one). The animators went to incredible, pain-staking detail to create a fun and involving world that, again, is utterly amazing. There are even a good number of non-crass jokes and sight gags which had me laughing quite a bit. It’s too bad they couldn’t get an all-star team in the area where it counts the most: the screenwriting.

Robots is the kind of film I would willingly pay money to see on the big screen, to more fully drink in all the amazing visuals. But please, turn off the sound so I can enjoy the movie.

Image quality: With a completely digital transfer from computer to DVD going for it, this is where Robots really shines. All the usual strengths of the breed are present: crystal-clear image, vivid color, no edge enhancement, and a striking sense of depth. Wonderful, wonderful. By the way, widescreen and foolscreen versions of this film are available, so be sure to get the right one if you choose to check this movie out.

Sound quality: Robots offers us both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Being a bit partial to DTS myself, I chose the latter, and it offered a pleasing auditory experience. The soundfield was broad, with a nice dynamic range providing sweet highs as well as nice, satisfying bass. Your sub will get some decent exercise with this one. Effects were well-distributed throughout the soundstage, which leaned a tad toward the front, but surround activity was appropriate for the scenes in which it was present.

Overall: If you’re the type of person who doesn’t mind a lot of mild potty humor and innuendo, you just might enjoy Robots. For me, however, the film is all style and little substance. A real shame.

Rated: PG for some brief language and suggestive humor.

Leave a Reply