Review by Dennis D. McDonald
I liked Robots. I liked the animation, the action sequences, the character personalities, and the performances of Robin Williams and Ewan McGregor.
I especially liked the battle sequence at the end with its darkness, its massed robotic antagonists, and the feeling I was seeing some real cartoon malevolence the likes of which I haven’t seen since Oogie Boogie in Nightmare Before Christmas.
The only thing I felt let down by was the story. It’s sort of a mechanical A Bug’s Life — small town kid goes to the big town, meets a flotilla of offbeat characters, then returns home. Here though Our Hero has his adventures in town, while the real adventures in Bug’s Life took place Back Home.
No matter. The film is a joy to look at with visual and verbal jokes throughout.
I didn’t find the commentary tracks that interesting, other than the stories about the history of the concept and the various stages the stories and characters went through. The interviews with the cast are interesting. They universally relate how odd it was to act alone in a studio, taking their cues from the director. Interestingly, Ewan McGregor compares acting in Robots to doing “radio work.” (What radio work?)
The surround sound and image quality are stunning. Visually and aurally this movie is a feast. Taken as a whole, however, Robots is still several notches below a Pixar movie. Why is that?
I’d summarize the difference as a lack of heart and real warmth. The story and humor in Robots, I think, are pretty basic television level quality. Fortunately the visual quality and attractive kinetics of the imagery overshadow that.