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Robots (March 8/05)

Robots marks the weakest computer animated film to come along since the birth of the format ten years ago, and though it's sure amazing to look at, the movie just isn't able to hold the viewer's interest throughout. This is primarily due to the film's lack of a cohesive storyline and emphasis on extremely kid-centric jokes, the majority of which seem to involve wildly over-the-top physical hijinks. Unlike its forebearers, Robots doesn't seem to have any interest in courting a more adult audience - despite a cornucopia of familiar voices in various roles.

The incredibly thin storyline revolves around a robot named Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor), who leaves home and heads to the big city with dreams of making it as an inventor. Rodney's hopes are dashed almost immediately, forcing him to bunk with a wacky robot named Fender (Robin Williams). The two embark on a mission to dethrone the dastardly Phineas T. Ratchet (Greg Kinnear), whose company is threatening to turn poverty-stricken robots into scrap.

Robots has been directed by Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha, the same men who helmed the superior Ice Age - though there's absolutely no denying that Robots far exceeds that movie in terms of its look. From small little details like the knobs on a character's body to the grandeur of Robot City, the film's visual splendor is easily the most effective (not to mention impressive) aspect of Robots.

Screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel - despite an impressive resume that includes City Slickers and Parenthood - generally eschew character development and plot in favor of a decidedly more family-friendly vibe. As a result, the movie is packed with silly, juvenile bits of humor (ie fart jokes) and references aimed strictly at the kids (there is, I kid you not, a Britney Spears bit midway through the film). And then there's Robin Williams, who gives an expectedly hyperactive performance which isn't necessarily bad - though it does become a little tedious as the movie progresses.

While the film features a wide variety of celebrities lending their voices (including Halle Berry, Drew Carey, and Mel Brooks), Stanley Tucci - playing Rodney's well-meaning father - delivers an amazing performance that's unexpectedly complex; were this a live action film, there's no doubt that Tucci would be a serious contender for next year's Oscars (he's that good).

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