Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Movie Review Time, Kiddies

So, what'd you do last Friday night? Me? Oh, nothing much. Fought the hordes at Wally World, found out that the Mickey D's in said establishment has a very limited menu & saw a little flick called "Robots."

What's that, you say? Me, going to the theatre in a Star Wars year, before the next episode comes out? I know, it felt weird to me, too. But, they did run the new "Sith" trailer before the movie, so, I guess that kind of makes up for things. And how'd it go, you ask? (OK, maybe you didn't...just humor me, 'K?)

We made it to the theatre &, having bought the tickets at lunchtime, made our way to Theatre #10. Since we were delayed by the time distortion warp that happens every time one goes to Wally World, we arrived to find the all of the good seats taken. I eventually staked out a place in the last row, clear against the left wall of the building. Unfortunately, positioned right in front of us was a halfwall that effectively blocked out a small portion of the screen. So, while T & The Boy made a run to the bathroom, I moved on to the only other seats available - the floor seats. The others returned to find me at the new location & we all settled in for our movie going experience. We started out not with advertisements, but directly on to the trailers instead.

First up - a new "Herbie the Love Bug" movie (Remember those?), "Herbie - Fully Loaded." Yeah, we need this. Starring Lindsay Lohan (&, despite the movie's title, it has nothing to do with her father), Michael Keaton & Matt Dillon, to boot. (A quick comment on the leads - while Ms. Lohan is not an unattractive woman, her voice is reminiscent of an agitated cat being drug across a blackboard. And Mr. Keaton, Mr. Dillon...wow...were you both needing rent money or something?) OK, back to the trailer - Herbie was apparently mothballed at some point (Probably after the ill advised sequel "Herbie Goes To A Monster Truck Rally"), as when the possessed "people's car" is found, there's an inch of dust on him. Ms. L is part of a racing family. She finds Herbie. Hijinks ensue. CGI galore. While it doesn't look horrible, it just seems unnecessary.

I will probably be haunted by this one come Christmas when The Boy puts it on his list.

Next up, a new trailer for "Madagascar," with the vocal stylings of Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimer & Chris Rock. This trailer helps to flesh out the story a little & made me want to see it a bit more than the first one did. The premise makes more sense now. It seems that some of the animals in the New York Zoo decide to go out for a night on the town. They get captured & sent to Madagascar (Why send animals to an island that they don't even come from in the wild is beyond me. I guess naming the movie "Africa" would've been a bit less geographically specific. Besides, they probably already have the Burger King tie-in toys already made). Hijinks again ensue. I could probably wait for it to come out on DVD, but T, The Boy & I will most likely go see it together on a family movie night when it comes out. It couldn't be as bad as "Shark Tale," at least.

Please tell me that it couldn't be as bad as "Shark Tale."


Finally, the main reason for me to even go to the movies that night came up - the new "Revenge Of The Sith" trailer.


Darth Sidious bustin' out his lightsaber! Yoda bustin' a move! Anakin slip slidin' deeper into the Dark Side! Space battles! Lasers! Stars! Wars! This one's got it all, Loyal Readers! I sat there with my jaw hanging open. The Boy could've tossed stale Juji Fruits that he picked up off the floor into my mouth & I wouldn't have noticed nor cared. I even clapped when the trailer was over. Y'know, one of those rapid claps, the kind usually reserved for twelve year old girls when they see the latest boy band that they're foaming at the mouth over. I did not, however, yell "I love you!" at the screen. At least not loud enough for anyone to hear.

I hope.

I could've left the theatre right when that trailer was finished, knowing that my $6 for a ticket was well spent. But, T & The Boy wanted to stay for the movie. Killjoys, harshin' on my Star Wars buzz...

So, about the movie. Before I go any further, though, I must warn you - if you are prone to motion sickness or are coming off of cold medication, I would advise waiting for video on this one. Or bringing along a barf bag. You just may need it. And whatever you do, don't sit too close to the screen. This thing even had me a bit dizzy. Of course, that may have been the residual effect of the "Star Wars" trailer, but...

If I could use two words to describe "Robots, " I'd use busy & tiring. But, then, that'd be a pretty short review. So, I'll add a few other words to fill space. "Robots" stars the vocal talents of Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Robin Williams, Mel Brooks, Greg Kinnear, Drew Carrey, Amanda Bynes & a few dozen other people whose names escape me at the moment. The story is a basic fable with a moral at the end for good measure. The story follows 'bot Rodney Copperbottom (MacGregor) as he grows up & then sets out on his own to become an inventor at robot philanthropist Bigweld's (Brooks) company.

The animation is great. Dizzying at times, but great. A lot of fast paced action & rapid fire jokes from Williams, who manages to convey his manic energy through his pixelated alterego (One of the movie's problems at times). McGregor makes a serviceable hero, a little vanilla at times (Another problem). When it got too slow, I just imagined him firing up a lightsaber & taking out some of the bad robots. And I was happy again. Mel Brooks' talent seemed to have been wasted, though (Yet another problem - collect 'em all, kids!). He plays a kindly, idealistic robot who wants to make life good for all robots in Robot City. The way the character is played, though (for the half of the movie that he's in), he's more annoying than anything, at first spouting platitiudes about how you can be anything that you want to be & being content with who you are & schtuff like that. Then, having given up on his dream, he's a domino addicted hermit. He's forced from the top spot in the company by Ratchet (Kinnear), although, how this was done is never explored. Ratchet's trying to get rid of the "outmodes" (I hate it when movies use lame technobabble) & get the citizenry to purchase upgrades for themselves instead of just replacing old parts (Their slogan - "Why be you when you can be new?").

The movie seems to rely a lot on speed: fast jokes, scenes moving at sublight, sequences that make you carsick. I still haven't decided if this was an attempt to draw attention away from the lightweight story or not. I've been trying not to make comparisons to "The Incredibles," but, as it is my plumbline for movies of this sort, holding "Robots" up to "Incredibles" light is inevitable. "Incredibles" had a good, engaging story. It didn't rely on the razzle dazzle of the family's superpowers. Those tended to be secondary. The family part was what was focused on. In "Robots," though, it was more about the razzle dazzle. It's as though the makers of the movie thought that while a little was fine, megatons of eye candy would be even better. The backgrounds & cityscapes were impressive, but there was just too much going on all of the time. It was too cluttered. There was just too much to take in all at once.

Couple that with trying to keep up with Robin Williams. To get an idea of just how frentic his character was, take the energy level from Genie from "Aladdin" & multiply it by about a thousand. His character in this movie, "Fender," is like a hyperactive child after a binge at the Wonka Factory. I must commend the animators for managing to generate a character that fit Williams. They must've worked their fingers to nubs trying to capture that. After awhile, though, trying to keep up with his constant one-liners & impersonations just ceased to be fun. Well, as fun as it could be.

The female characters range from Bynes' fiesty "Piper" to Jennifer Coolidge's doting "Aunt Fanny" (Who gives new meaning to "junk in the trunk") to Berry's careerbot "Cappy." Now, anyone who knows me well enough knows that I like strong women. Women who can take care of themselves. Whiney, frail, timid women, in the movies or in real life, annoy me to no end. But here, it's like they took all of the qualities of one woman & made three female characters out of them. The problem with that is that you end up with very one dimensional characters. Piper is a teenage 'bot with the "I can do anything you can do better" attitude. Aunt Fanny is an older unit whose nurture programming is still firmly intact, taking in homeless robots & making hot grease drinks for them. Cappy'ss the successful shebot, climbing her way up the corporate ladder at Bigweld's while fending off advances from Ratchet, because she's, y'know, just so hot & all. I doubt that storyline would've gotten very far if they would've made her look like Aunt Fanny.

The obligatory romantic subplot between Rodney & Cappy is never really explained. It just sorta happens. I mean, Cappy's tall, svelte & all that. Rodney, on the other hand looks like...well...imagine if the Rocketeer & a toaster had a child. Now, imagine that child growing up & having a child with a '57 Chevy. That's pretty much what Rodney looks like. You can't tell me that Cappy was attracted to his personality, either, because they barely share any screentime together throughout the first half of the movie. The subplot just felt tacked on, like the writer was going through his "How To Write A Story" handbook, got to the romance chapter & just threw something together. Yes, I know this is just a cartoon, but it's still telling a story. If they're going to try to cram every cliche' possible, the story still needs to make sense.

Ratchet is your sterotypical villain, vain, prideful & a momma's 'bot. He's pretty much all bark, though, as he cowers to anyone who says "Boo!" to him. His mother is using him to further her own nefarious dreams of ousting Bigweld permanently (Her hatred of Bigweld is never gone into) & take over the city - when she's not melting down its citizens. He hits on Cappy & then, when she rebuffs him & sides up with Rodney, he tries to have her melted down with the rest of the outmodes (Cripes! I hate that word). Needless to say, he gets his comeuppance in the in the end.

The only other thing that bugged me (& has been the major reason that I haven't cared to see too many of the more recent Disney movies) was the musical numbers that were thrown in (One for comedic effect & the other because the movie needed another number to allow all of the characters to be seen at the same time). "Incredibles", "The Iron Giant" &, amazingly enough (for a Disney movie, at least), "Lilo & Stitch" all showed that animated features can get by without having the leads break into song at the drop of a hat. If the story's a musical, then fine. I would think that a song here & there kinda comes with the territory. But they just seem unnecessary in a more action oriented story.

Now, while it sounds like I'm beating this movie up, I really don't think it was a horribly bad flick. (Trust me, I've seen some truly bad movies) It has it's good parts. The Robot City mass transit system was pretty cool. The humor was spread out pretty evenly, with enough to make the kiddies laugh (More visual humor than anything) & enough to make the adults chuckle (& fortunately, aimed high enough so as to go over kids heads). Visually, while extremely busy, is was stunning. The city was remeniscent of the city planet Coruscant from the latest "Star Wars" trilogy, with different sections of society living at different levels of the city. A very smooth, polished piece of eye candy.

While I could've waited for it to come out on DVD, it was worth the price of a matinee...or the discount tix I bought at work.

Robots: 3 1/2 Locking Nuts (Out of a possible 5)