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RobotsRobots on DVD

20th Century Fox’s animation studio was shut down because it made a great movie that wasn’t marketed properly in Titan A.E.

Now, 20th Century Fox has a new animation studio, one that seems to care less about making great movies and more about just being in the CGI race.

From the creators of Ice Age (a mediocre movie at best) comes Robots, a movie seemingly put together entirely by producers. It follows the story of Rodney Copperbottom (Ewan McGregor), a “young” robot inventor who has dreams of making it big with Big Weld (Mel Brooks), the so-called “greatest robot in the world.”

So he leaves his family and heads to the big city, and quickly meets Fender (Robin Williams) who shows him the ropes and unwittingly introduces him to his band of misfits.

Unfortunately, as Rodney soon discovers, Big Weld is MIA and has been replaced by Ratchet (Greg Kinnear), a nasty robot who doesn’t have the same affection for lesser robots that Big Weld does. Naturally, Rodney and his misfit buddies must join forces and overthrow the bad guys in order to save Rodney’s father (and thousands of other robots) from becoming obsolete.

While not completely unenjoyable, Robots has problems aplenty. The script features nary a laugh, chock full of jokes even kids might not find amusing. The story and characters are as formulaic as it gets, and in fact, we couldn’t help but notice that Robots is, in many ways, the exact same movie as Shark Tale (which was, in many ways, the exact same movie as Shrek). Little things also plague the film, such as the romance between Rodney and Cappy just sort of happening, rather than developing (and we certainly don’t buy it). And animated films were more fun when they didn’t focus on the voice talent. One of the things we liked about Disney movies was trying to figure out who was behind the character (and it was a lot better when they used actors, rather than stars). In Robots, pretty much anybody who contributes a voice gets a name in the credits (for example, Jay Leno has two lines for a total of about seven words, and he gets a credit at the beginning).

Certain things about Robots are fun, such as the robot equivalent of a freeway, and that one robot who does the robot is hi-larious. Credit must also be given to Greg Kinnear, who seems to be having a great time voicing his character. It’s hard, on the other hand, for Robin Williams to be Robin Williams with material such as this backing him up. Robots is no Aladdin.

If you’re looking for a prime example of the fact that studios and producers are having way too much input over the final film products these days, watch Robots. Despite the fact that (director) Chris Wedge would like you to believe he’s wanted to tell this story for years, we see no evidence to support that theory. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s a complete write-off at best.

The DVD presentation of the film is both excellent and pretty lame. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (a Pan&Scan version is available separately), the picture quality is superb, with rich colors and excellent detail. The CGI backgrounds are glorious, and there are no traces of foreign objects anywhere to be found. Audio is also excellent, with a fair number of surrounds and spectacular clarity.

Director Chris Wedge and producer/production designer William Joyce provide an audio commentary, which is surprisingly bland for such a colorful movie. They talk about the history of the project, casting, blah, blah, blah and other stuff. There’s another, slightly more interesting commentary by the visual effects team, but probably only more interesting if you’re as big a nerd as we are. The deleted scenes, which come in various states of completion, can be played with or without commentary by Wedge. None of the scenes are bad, but none are necessary.

The “Original Robots Test” is a two-minute short that was made before any ideas were thrown around for the film itself. It’s not really anything in particular, just a sample for the studio. “You Can Shine No Matter What You’re Made Of” is nearly 20-minutes of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage that is actually quite interesting. “Blue Man Group” is a short featurette on how the Blue Man Group helped with the score. There are also some interactive robot profiles, an X-Box game demo, some interactive games, and “Aunt Fanny’s Tour of Booty,” an animated short that is less entertaining than the film, and completely superfluous.

Robots, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
89 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital & dts 5.1
Starring Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks and Robin Williams
Produced by Jerry Davis, John C. Donkin, William Joyce
Screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire and Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel
Directed by Chris Wedge


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Updated May 13, 2006