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Robots more or less confirms that production studio Blue Sky is likely to be remembered as the Jan to Pixar’s Marcia and PDI’s Cindy: The film, not unlike Ice Age, fails to tap into the magic and heart of its make-believe fantasy world the way A Bug’s Life and Monsters, Inc. do, and while it’s certainly better than postmodern shitstorms like Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, it still sucks to be the middle child. So desperate is Blue Sky for attention that Robots is preceded by another vision of Ice Age‘s scene-stealing Scrat going to death-defying lengths to hoard a nut: Sadly, this half-short (which promises “to be continued”—assuming, that is, Blue Sky gets to make another film) was the most amusing thing about my Robots experience. The film proper concerns a young robot, Rodney (Ewan McGregor), who goes to the big city looking to find his true calling, along the way uncovering a plot by the tyrannical and capitalistic Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) to get rid of the city’s old-school robots. Like Shark Tale, the film may be class conscious, but the revolution it televises lacks passion and philosophical meaning, muddled by the requisite fart jokes and pop-cultural references we’ve come to expect from these soulless CGI roller coasters. If the plot seems half-assed and the characters scarcely register, that’s because Robots is yet another film that allows Robin Williams free rein over its production. The actor’s lightning-fast comedic timing was a source of wonder on a recent episode of Bill Maher’s Real Time, but the man’s incessant need to call attention to himself is simply revolting. Just as shrill as Williams’s cloying dramatic performances is his comic vaudeville, which is predicated on the same queenie affections, we-are-the-world accents, and socio-political non sequiturs familiar from countless Aladdin films, red carpet appearances, and Comic Relief specials. The good news here is that the film’s backdrops and detail-work is impressive enough (look for the cute curb-your-dog sign in one shot) that even if you can’t stand to look at Williams’s fey robot, directors Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha offer ample visual alternatives.

DVD | Soundtrack
20th Century Fox
89 min
Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha
Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks, Drew Carey, Amanda Bynes, Jim Broadbent, Jennifer Coolidge, Carson Daly, Paul Giamatti, Dan Hedaya, D.L. Hughley, Jamie Kennedy, Conan O'Brien, Stanley Tucci, Sofía Vergara, Chris Wedge, Dianne Wiest, Harland Williams, Bruce Winant, Robin Williams

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