ninth symphony films - movie reviews

ROBOTS (2005)

DIRECTOR  -  c saldanha & c wedge

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  animated

LENGTH  -  92 minutes

RELEASED  -  11 march 2005

DISTRIBUTOR  -  20th century fox

OFFICIAL SITE  -  robots

robots - a shot from the film


buy the soundtrack from robots at

buy the soundtrack from robots at

a robot in a world of robots undertakes a journey to meet a master inventor.

computer animation production started sometime in early 2003 at the blue sky studios in white plains, ny.


picture from robots

picture from robots

picture from robots

picture from robots

picture from robots


three out of four possible stars

The very basic approach of spelling out word-for-word the special "message" an animated film should contain has for years been an accepted method of story creation for writers at many of the biggest animation studios in the United States. And the recently financially blessed Blue Sky Studios, who crushed March box office records in March of 2002 with Ice Age are at the helm of another film that, while its basic script components won't impress many viewers, still contains all the necessary components of a highly enjoyable animated feature.

Although directors Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha probably won't put an unhealthy dent in the DVD sales of rival CGI animation studio Pixar (the release of 2004's The Incredibles just happens to coincide with the theatrical release of Robots), this film represents an animation house that a few features down the road should trample easily over efforts at DreamWorks and give the Pixar folks a run for their money.

Harnessing the same kinetic energy and innocent enthusiasm of their earlier efforts with Ice Age the creators of Robots take a very basic story and dump a few tons of visual insanity and vocal hilarity into the mix to disguise a story that nearly every viewer will find quite familiar. A young man (or robot, in this case) leaves his small town for the big city in hopes he'll make it big and impress his doting parents. Simple, clean, and in this film and most others, it's a formula that works if there is sufficient additional creative energy put into the feature. And one has only to witness the quickly paced theatrical trailer to realize just how energetic a ride this film attempts to be.

Lead vocal talent Ewan McGregor, picking up an American accent with ease (handling the inflection of a Midwest dialect much better than the American southern accent he tried to pick up for Big Fish), creates exactly the type of hero required for the story. Dedicated, likeable, enthusiastic, the unfailing and honorable "Rodney Copperbottom" is a worthy protagonist and his wish to make a success of himself and help his parents out of their financial struggles should resonate with most viewers. As his robotic parents, Stanley Tucci and Diane Wiest can only be described as adorable and might be the most emotionally affecting pair of voices in the film.

But interestingly, despite the well-handled casting across the board (and this film boasts more than your average of famous voices in a myriad group of roles), the true star of this film is Chris Wedge. Not for his efforts behind the camera, but for his vocal talents as the harebrained and skittish dishwashing "bot" invention (at the time of this writing I am unsure if it was specifically Wedge who voiced the Bot, but after his success with Scrat, there's no one else it could be!). Pictured in the fifth photo to the left, this "bot" is the invention with which Rodney Copperbottom hopes to create his fortune.

And predictably, as sidekicks are wont to do, the bot steals all his scenes easily, giving co-star Robin Williams (who voices down-and-out bot, "Fender") a serious run for his money. And the bot doesn't even really speak. He is what could easily be considered the "Scrat" of Robots and the character is like the cute, fuzzy dog that pulls as much emotion from the viewer as do the main characters of a film. Except, perhaps, that this character doesn't have any fur...

Regarding the overall visual look of the film, the animators have made amazing progress in their creation of a completely digital world. Unlike the sometimes sparse exteriors featured in Ice Age, this film is packed from beginning to end with a dizzying array of background "stuff." It's like the filmmakers employed an entire crew of animators whose only job was to make sure the background was as filled to capacity as was robotically possible. More than the technical excellence displayed in every frame of the film, it's also the creativity regarding the physical ideas of a completely robotic world that will impress the eye.

The film is not a futuristic, high-tech tale of a world controlled by advanced robots boasting artificial intelligence. It's like a trip into American 1950's nostalgia with just a few nods to today's pop culture (the people in charge of the soundtrack made good comedic use of contemporary hip hop and pop tunes). It's like looking at Earth if everything on it was made of metal. Chairs, buildings, "people" - everything viewers see on the screen is re-imagined with a metal covering. Everything that can be personified has a pair of eyes and that includes most of the transportation machines and household appliances.

The only thing this film is missing is a truly innovative dialogue. There's no shame in taking a well-used story to the plate, but there's no reason the dialogue can't be a hit out of the park. It is possible that less time than was probably necessary was spent on the script because of Robin Williams' involvement (could anyone hold that actor to the words on the page of a script?), but the only thing keeping this film from being a true four-star experience is the dialogue. Beyond the lapses in judgment regarding the dialogue, the visuals are stunning, the editing and musical score are expertly done, and every aspect of the film is excellently produced. Robots is a strong entry into the world of computer animated films and while it won't win the animation derby this year, is still a beautiful and entertaining creation.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

PS: There is an early trailer for Ice Age 2 preceding this film! Go see it in the theater if you can!

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