Less is more. Someone should have told them.

Robots has a glittering voice cast and astonishing CGI animation and yet is over endowed with too much of this, too much of that and too much of everything.

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In the same way that the circus performers in A Bug's Life didn't have empathetic personalities compared to the toys in Andy's Room, the working robots struggle to make themselves known above the din of activity and the pace of graphics.

Monsters Inc had a complicated storyline that required a leap of imagination to accept the conceit of the doors. By remaining true to the characters of Sully and Wazowski and not being sidetracked into seductive subplots, Pixar pulled it off magnificently.

Robots, from the Ice Age studio, has subplots coming out of its toolbox. The simple, sentimental tale of Rodney Copperbottom, son of a dishwashing robot, who leaves home to seek his fortune in the big city, has a nodding acquaintance with Spongebob Squarepants's recent movie incarnation, in which he and his goofy pal Patrick travelled to the little city to sort out a corporate injustice.

Robots is clever, while Spongebob was funny. Big Weld Industries in Rivet Town has been high jacked by a ruthless executive, called Fender, after its avuncular owner had been encouraged to indulge his passion for dominoes far away from the centre of power.

Fender refuses to allow Big Weld to make spare parts any longer, insisting that older models buy regular upgrades, therefore boosting profit margins at the expense of the robulace. There are parallels with modern manufacturing practices and the present US administration's support of aggressive capitalism over the fears of environmentalists, although there is no time to ponder whether Rodney is the flat-packed kit form of Ralph Nader Jr, or simply the still small voice of reason in a world fed by greed and bolstered by vested interests.

Behind the interminable bustle and romanticised community spirit of The Rusties, who scrape a living repairing outmodes, Rodney's last words on leaving home are the ones you walk away with at the end.

"I won't let you down, dad," he promises. "I'll make you proud."

And he does (sob).

Reviewed on: 19 Mar 2005
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Animated idealism meets corporate ruthlessness in Rivet Town.
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