Prepare for Robots, an extravaganza of post-modern creativity - fast, funny, endearing, predictable, harmless family fun.

It begins the way Shark Tale did, drifting through the painstakingly created world of our characters, establishing the set-up quickly and easily. We see Mr Copperbottom (voiced by Stanley Tucci, as underplayed as ever) bound out into the street, overjoyed that he's about to "have" a baby. At first, everything seems over-the-top and over-energised, a typical animation technique for drawing in children and alienating adults, but this subsides quickly, replaced instead with an infectious enthusiasm, embodied in the form of Rodney (Ewan McGregor) Copperbottom.

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What makes Robots enjoyable is its blend of slapstick and subtle humour. Robin Williams revisits his Genie persona from Aladdin, as Fender, a crowd pleasing, fast moving robot that contrasts with the goal orientated nature of Rodney's character. Quality references to modern living are included also - Mr Copperbottom refusing to read the instructions before they assemble their new baby, for example.

Robots avoids throwing in as many child-friendly pop tunes as possible, a la Shark Tale. There are a number of modern tracks included, which succeed in complimenting the humour of the scenes, although Fender's Britney Spears dance in the final battle scene is pointless, yet stomach wrenching. When we are introduced to the "chop-shop", the booming bass that accompanies the establishing shots constructs the dingy atmosphere without removing its comic elements, as the track is too ridiculous to take seriously.

Robots is a well-made film. Held back by its simplistic plot and relentless movement from action to action, it manages to engage and excite. This comes courtesy of the charming array of good-natured characters, of which Williams's Fender is the scene-stealer. The mix match of pop culture references (Star Wars, Singin' In The Rain) fits nicely with the idea that this is a film about parts.

Reviewed on: 19 Mar 2005
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Animated idealism meets corporate ruthlessness in Rivet Town.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***


EIFF 2011

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