3 Stars - Wholesome
In a society where people seek extreme makeovers in order to be acceptable, the message of “Robots” is not only insightful, but it is also instructive. Like many analogies which help us see ourselves in a new way, the robots have the all-too-human problems of aging, greed, domination and evil. They also possess the human virtues of love, family, courage and cooperation. Created as a children’s film, the allusions to adult situations make it enjoyable for all.
Demonstrating the amazing advancement of computer generated cartoons, these creators of “Ice Age” take us into a world that feels like an “erector set” fantasy. A whole world of robotic birds, dogs, machines and various human-like creatures is full of humor and movie spoofs. But what makes the world engaging is its warmth in metallic form.
The leading character is Rodney Copperbottom (voice by Ewan McGregor). “Delivered” into a simple family whose father is a dishwasher, literally, and whose mother is warmly protective of her son, Rodney grows through continually receiving the hand-me-down parts of his cousins. Though the film does not explain what it is about Rodney that needs increasingly larger robotic parts to inhabit, it is clear that this “spirit” or “soul” is growing.
Accepting the challenge from his childhood TV hero to become an inventor and present his invention in person to him, Rodney is wonderfully launched by his parents to go for his dream. Rodney travels to Robot City where he intends to find Mr. Bigweld (voice by Mel Brooks) and show him “Wonder-bot”, his truly amazing robotic invention.
But when Rodney gets there, the world is not what he thought it would be. Mr. Bigweld has been replaced by Ratchet (voice by Greg Kinnear) who has changed the purpose of the Bigweld company. No longer are they in business to help people become their best, but rather to make everyone with worn out parts worthless unless they acquire shiny new “upgrades.” The goal is to force everyone to have an extreme makeover or be tossed on the scrap heap.
This obvious allegory to the social pressure people experience to look beautiful or be discarded and the greed motivating some business leaders is contrasted by the rag-tag community Rodney enters in the slums of the city. Here he meets other robots who are outcasts and yet exhibit caring for each other in contrast to Ratchet’s contempt. It is for these as well as for himself that Rodney reaches deep within and finds the courage to do something about the injustice he finds.
This is also true in the human experience. Unable to face the world alone, if we have the assurance that someone we loves believes in us and friends to stand beside us, we can make a determined effort to change our world.
This message is one that is very fitting for our day. Often we look at the Ratchets of the world and become fearful and overwhelmed with the task of stopping them. Yet, by working together for a purpose greater than our own self-interests, we realize that the force for good is stronger than the force for evil.
- The film contrasts the parenting of Ratchet’s mother, the grotesque Madam Gasket (voice by Jim Broadbent), with the parenting of Rodney’s father, the empowering Herb Copperbottom (voice by Stanley Tucci). In Ratchet’s home, his mother encourages his evil scheme which uses people for his own gain, while in Rodney’s home, his father encourages him to reach his dreams. In the end each receive their due. What did you receive from your mother? From your father? Is it a mixed bag?
- The modest childhood of Rodney caused him to apply himself to the art of repairing and inventing robots. What kind of childhood do you believe grows the best in us as people? Poverty? Modesty? Wealth? What did your childhood cause to happen in your development?
- The fact that Mr. Bigweld had secluded himself in his home and created domino reactions instead of leading his company reveals a belief that many of us are playing games instead of impacting our world. Do you believe this to be true of you? Why or why not?
- The complexity of this film visually is a masterpiece of computer-generated cinema. Do you believe it is too complex or just right? Have we reached a point where computers can create more complex films than we can process visually? How does this reflect the complexity of our world?