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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha
Cast:
Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Stanley Tucci, Dianne Wiest, Mel Brooks, Jay Leno, Amanda Bynes, Drew Carey, Paul Giamatti, James Earl Jones
Writing Credits:
Ron Mita (story), Jim McClain (story), David Lindsay-Abaire, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel

Tagline:
Repair for adventure!

Synopsis:
Fasten your seat bolts and gear up for a hilarious, heartwarming comedy that's "Fun for the whole family!" (Clay Smith, "Access Hollywood")

With the help of his misfit mechanical friends, a small town robot named Rodney embarks on the adventure of a lifetime as he heads for the big city to pursue his dreams — and ultimately proves that anyone can shine no matter what they're made of.

Featuring an all-star voice cast and a groundbreaking visual style that pushes the boundaries of animated filmmaking, Robots is a dazzling, fun-filled feast for the eyes and a riveting good time for all ages!

Box Office:
Budget
$75 million.
Opening Weekend
$36.045 million on 3776 screens.
Domestic Gross
$128.195 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 9/27/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Chris Wedge and Production Designer/Producer William Joyce
• Audio Commentary with Lead Technical Director (Effects) Tim Speltz, Lead Technical Director (Materials) Michael Eringis, Lead Technical Director (Layout) Kevin Thomason, Layout Supervisor Robert Cardone, Animation Supervisor James Bresnahan, Animation Technical Lead Matthew D. Simmons, and Lighting Supervisor David Esneault
• “Aunt Fanny’s Tour of Booty”
• “Robots Original Test”
• “Discontinued Parts”
• “You Can Shine, No Matter What You’re Made Of”
• Blue Man Group
• Meet the Bots
• Robot Arcade
Robots Multi-Player XBox Video Game Demo
• Fox Promos


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Robots (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 25, 2005)

To me, no film better represented the dominance of computer animation than 2002’s Ice Age. Prior to its release, Fox struggled to find an audience for its animated flicks. Efforts like 2000’s Titan AE and 1997’s Anastasia either underperformed or outright stiffed as they couldn’t make inroads into the genre dominance of Disney and DreamWorks.

Then along came the CG revolution and voila! Even Fox could pump out an animated hit. Ice Age mustered a tidy $176 million gross and spawned a sequel that will arrive in 2006.

In the meantime, director Chris Wedge went on to a different computer animated project with 2005’s Robots. The film opens with the “delivery” – assembly required - of baby ‘bot Rodney Copperbottom, the child of dishwasher Herb (voiced by Stanley Tucci) and his wife (Dianne Wiest). As Rodney grows, he learns to accept hand-me-downs and other issues connected to his family’s tenuous financial state, but he maintains a dream. He sees robot mogul Bigweld (Mel Brooks) on TV and responds to the corporate dynamo’s vision of a society in which all droids can create and succeed.

When Rodney (Ewan McGregor) reaches maturity, he takes his inventions on the road and moves to big Robot City where he hopes to catch on with Bigweld’s company. Alas, all is not as happy as he anticipates, and he finds a corporation obsessed with profits. Bigweld has been deposed by money-obsessed Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) and Rodney fails to get anywhere. He ends up almost on the scrap heap, but he makes friends with nutty Fender (Robin Williams) and his pals. The rest of the movie follows Rodney’s attempts to succeed in the big city as he gets to know his new buddies and also eventually connect romantically with Bigweld executive Cappy (Halle Berry). In addition, see more of Ratchet’s insidious plans to take over Bigweld – and the world! – along with the real mastermind, his evil mother (Jim Broadbent) and watch as Rodney becomes a major cog in the battle against this plan.

Why did I even bother to write a synopsis for Robots? The paragraphs above imply that the film features a true narrative. Not so. Instead, Robots ties together bits and pieces into this loose conglomeration of plot ideas. The story elements come across as afterthoughts, concepts created simply because the filmmakers figured no one would go to see 90 minutes of general animated goofiness.

Apparently their plan worked, since Robots earned a decent $128 million at the box office. That ain’t Shrek 2 - or even Ice Age - money, but it isn’t bad. $128 million is more than this flick deserved, however, as it lacks the quality needed to make it a winner.

Like 2004’s Shark Tale - and the Shrek flicks, to a degree - Robots largely sacrifices story to serve its gags. This method works okay in the other movies because they manage to toss out some reasonably clever bits, and they offer enough charm and spirit to engage us.

That never happens in Robots, a film that clearly seems much more in love with its production design and secondary elements. The side bits overwhelm the movie. From start to finish, the film comes across like a random conglomeration of gags with little coherence. It feels like the filmmakers thought up moments they saw as clever and built a movie around them.

This becomes “cart driving the horse” territory, and the cast don’t do anything to elevate the material. With a roster of many big names, the actors should have brought spirit to the flick. Unfortunately, they either get submerged by the tedium of the gags or they sound like they barely made it into the studio.

Put McGregor and Berry into the latter category. Both sound badly disengaged from their roles and give me the impression they’re on sedatives. No, there’s not much to either part anyway, but the lack of personality found in either performance certainly doesn’t help matters.

The same quality infects a lot of the actors’ work, and even the normally dynamic Robin Williams lacks effervescence. Williams does his normal shtick but without much impact. Mel Brooks brings a little spunk to Bigweld, and Greg Kinnear delivers a certain oily charm to Ratchet, but otherwise the performances go down as shockingly bland and forgettable.

I have to say the same for Robots itself. The film had a lot of potential in its droid-centered world, but it rarely mined any of the material well. I didn’t laugh once during the flick, and I think I only cracked a smile twice. There’s most robot cleverness and comedy to be found in any episode of Futurama than in this feature-length dud.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B+

Robots appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the visuals of Robots consistently seemed strong, they were a little less dynamic than I expected from a computer animated film.

Softness was one minor issue. The majority of the film depicted very concise and accurate images, but not always. At times the shots looked just a smidgen soft. I also noticed occasional examples of shimmering and jagged edges. Again, these remained quite modest, but they appeared more prominent than I’d anticipate. No source flaws came with the transfer, as the movie lacked any form of defect.

To match the film’s metallic world, colors were somewhat subdued much of the time. Occasionally they became more dynamic and vivid, but a lot of the movie used a metallic blue tint. Within that palette, the hues were quite good, and when the picture demanded more from them, they appeared lively and vivacious. Blacks also seemed dark and firm, while low-light shots offered good delineation. As I considered a grade, I flip-flopped between an “A-“ and a “B+”. I went with the lower mark simply because I thought the transfer should have been virtually perfect, so the minor issues made it a little less positive than expected.

On the other hand, the soundtracks of Robots fared nicely. The DVD came with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. Except for a slight difference in volume that made the DTS one louder, I thought the pair sounded identical.

And that was fine with me, since both presented lively audio. The soundfield broadened the material in a positive way. With all the droids and silly scenarios on display, the movie offered many opportunities for vivid elements, and it took advantage of most. The big scenes like the dominoes, the Robot City transport, and the climactic battle worked best. Others added spark as well, however, and the movie left us with a rich, involving impression.

Audio quality was stellar. Bass response seemed especially positive, as the film consistently presented deep, firm low-end. Effects used that dimensionality well and created a good impact along with fine clarity and precision. Speech was warm and natural, and music appeared distinctive and dynamic. No problems caused concerns in this very strong soundtrack.

When we head to the DVD’s extras, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first presents director Chris Wedge and production designer/producer William Joyce, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. They chat about the project’s origins and growth, characters and their development, working with the actors, visual elements, the score and instrumentation, references and inspirations, cut sequences and alterations, and story topics.

The commentary starts out very well, as Wedge and Joyce dig into many useful subjects with vigor. We get a good look at the production during those moments. Unfortunately, as the track progresses, the men devote more and more time to praise. They talk about what they love and heap plaudits on all involved. We still get some decent notes about the film through its end, but the dominance of the happy talk makes it turn tedious.

For the second commentary, we hear from lead technical director (effects) Tim Speltz, lead technical director (materials) Michael Eringis, lead technical director (layout) Kevin Thomason, layout supervisor Robert Cardone, animation supervisor James Bresnahan, animation technical lead Matthew D. Simmons, and lighting supervisor David Esneault. All those guys sit together for their own running, screen-specific chat. As one might expect, technical concerns dominate the discussion. They get into character and set rendering, lighting, movement and design, alterations and techniques, and a myriad of different challenges.

Although I’ve heard drier commentaries, I have to say this one becomes pretty yawn-inducing before too long. I don’t fault the participants for this – it’s simply the nature of the subject matter, as such technical issues don’t lend themselves to exciting discussions. Folks with a great interest in the nuts and bolts of CG animation may find this track worthwhile, but I didn’t get much from it.

When we examine Aunt Fanny’s Tour of Booty, we find a five-minute and 10-second short. In it, Aunt Fanny takes us on a comedic tour of the Robot City train station. It’s similar to material in the film, though the relentless parade of gags works better in a brief clip like this than it does in a feature-length flick.

The Robots Original Test lasts two minutes and three seconds. It shows the concept clip created to show how the film’s world would look. That makes it an interesting historical artifact. We can watch it with or without commentary from Wedge and co-director Carlos Saldanha. They fill us in on details connected to the short.

Called Discontinued Parts, we get a collection of three deleted scenes. We see “Tim from the TV Show”, “Rodney and the Rusties” and “Rodney’s Visitor”. The first is an extended version of an existing sequence and features finished animation. The other two offer incomplete scenes in which Rodney deals with his buddies; they use some crude animation and/or storyreels. None of these seem very exciting, though they’re fun to see.

We can inspect these with or without commentary from Wedge. He offers some nice notes about the abandoned storylines and other issues. He also lets us know why he cut the material in this useful discussion.

A featurette called You Can Shine, No Matter What You’re Made Of runs 18 minutes, 13 seconds. It offers an overview of the production with remarks from Wedge, Saldanha, Joyce, executive producer Chris Meledandri, art director Steve Martino, lead color key artist Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, designer Michael Knapp, lead character designer Greg Couch, and designer Peter de Seve. They discuss the project’s origins, inspirations and development, visual and character designs, robot specifics, and general thoughts about the processes.

“Shine” is what the commentaries should have been. It covers useful design issues in a brisk and informative manner. It moves us along well but still manages a reasonable amount of detail. This featurette stands out as one of the DVD’s better components.

Another piece entitled Blue Man Group lasts five minutes and 57 seconds. It looks at the contributions of that oddball organization via comments from Wedge, composer John Powell, and Blue Man Group founders Chris Wink and Phil Stanton. We learn about the movie’s general musical design, the origins of BMG, and their contributions to the soundtrack. I was afraid this would be a puffy glorification of BMG, but instead it offers a pretty tight little coverage of their work on the flick.

Next comes Meet the Bots, a section with plenty of information about the movie’s 11 main characters. Each one offers short, humorous biographies of the personalities and then breaks into three areas: “The Voice Behind the Bot”, “Design Gallery” and “3-D Turnaround”. The “Voice” featurettes present short clips in which each voice artist talks about his/her character and their work. Some are better than others; Jim Broadbent, Jennifer Coolidge, Ewan McGregor and Halle Berry offer nice notes, while Mel Brooks and Drew Carey don’t tell us much. They’re still cool additions. (Note that the section for “Diesel” simply includes a montage of his different voices since no single actor did his lines.)

Each “Gallery” includes stills from the characters’ development. We see concept sketches and final drawings. All in all, we get 95 frames. In a nice touch, the concert art displays the name of the person who drew it. Finally, the “Turnarounds” show CG renderings of all the characters to demonstrate their final design. These areas add up to a good view of the robots.

Attempts at fun pop up in the “Robot Arcade”. It features three elements. Robot Dance lets you choose any of eight different moves and then watch a droid perform them. The “Mega Moves” option selects dances at random. It’s silly but minor fun.

Fender Photo Shoot shows you stills of various movie characters and quizzes you on how well you remember them. It’s moderately challenging but not too stimulating. Finally, Invent-A-Bot sounds like it’ll let you create your own droids. Instead, it’s a tedious game that forces you to “find” components to use for a predetermined creation.

The DVD also presents a Robots Multi-Player XBox Video Game Demo. Is this fun? Since I don’t own an XBox, I have no clue.

The package ends with ads. A collection of Fox Promos touts the Robots soundtrack, Bratz: Rock Angelz, Ferngully, Strawberry Shortcake, Garfield, and Malcolm in the Middle. Inside Look features a trailer for Ice Age 2 and a “tour” of the flick with voice actor John Leguizamo. The latter is quick and not very informative, though Leguizamo adds some fun to it.

Too bad Robots itself provides so little spark of its own. The movie concentrates so heavily on visual minutiae that it forgets to develop memorable characters or an involving plot. It looks great but lacks any substance to make it worthwhile. The DVD offers good picture quality, though the image is a little disappointing when compared to other CG animation. The soundtrack is very positive, and despite a couple of lackluster audio commentaries, the extras round out the package well. I think this DVD is a generally good product, but the movie itself doesn’t merit a recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5555 Stars Number of Votes: 18
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