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:: Robots

Has Pixar made a deal with Satan? When they released The Incredibles late last year it was a near flawless example of just how compelling an animated feature can be and added another feather to their to their cap, which by now must be starting to resemble a small bird. The fact that no other studio has even come close to duplicating their level of success, despite buckets of money and all-star casts, can only mean that eerie forces are at work. Robots is the latest non-Satanic attempt by a rival studio to try and take on the juggernaut and, although it ultimately falls short, it is a very worthy attempt.

The story takes place in a futuristic city inhabited entirely by robots, but each with their own individual look and personality, spoofing the wild sci-fi fantasies of the 40’s and 50’s. Rodney Copperbottom (Ewan MacGregor) is an idealistic inventor who dreams of moving Rivet Town to Robot City, home of his Oz-like idol Big Weld (Mel Brooks). As happens when a wide-eyed innocent moves to the big smoke, things are not as rosy as they appear. Rodney discovers that Big Weld has been usurped by a robotic yuppie, Ratchet (Greg Kinnear), who intends to dispose of all the outmoded robots unless they pay for expensive upgrades. There are some cute puns and nice visual gags in the mix, but the film really hits top gear whenever Rodney travels through the city. It is a crazy mechanised wonderland that leaps off the screen.

The script brisk and enjoyable although just once it would be nice to see a G-rated film that didn’t trot out the familiar “believe in yourself and you can achieve anything” guff. Occasionally the film gets too cute for it’s own good, particularly in the last act when it runs out of puff badly, opting for a scattergun approach to jokes and seemingly irrelevant set-pieces rather than delivering the knock-out punch. The seemingly endless parade celebrity voices in supporting roles becomes numbing after a while although Robin Williams delivers the goods in what is essentially a reheating of his Genie character from Aladdin. There is nothing in this film that really surprises or pushes the envelope in the way Pixar does, but it’s definitely a fun, Lucifer-free way to spend 85 minutes.