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The delightful designs of William Joyce (writer/illustrator of such popular children's books as George Shrinks and Bently & Egg) make Robots a joy to behold. The round, bouncy, and ramshackle forms of hero Rodney Copperbottom and his computer-animated friends are part of an ornate and daffy
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Rube-Goldberg universe of elaborate contraptions and gleaming metallic surfaces. Rodney (voiced with a hint-of-Scottish lilt by Ewan McGregor) is a young inventor who sets off for Robot City to work for Big Weld (Mel Brooks), the supreme inventor of the mechanical world. But upon his arrival, Rodney discovers that Big Weld has disappeared, and the slick, shiny Ratchet (Greg Kinnear, As Good As It Gets) is phasing out the spare parts that lumpen robots need to function and replacing them with "upgrades"--expensive and glistening new exoskeletons. Unfortunately, from this suitable beginning, the story degenerates into a series of action sequences that make very little sense, though some are kinetic and fun (though others are only there to serve the inevitable Robots video game). Most kids will enjoy the sheer visual pleasure of the movie, but compared to the narrative richness of Pixar movies like The Incredibles and Toy Story, that pleasure is pretty short-lived. Also featuring the voices of Robin Williams, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Amanda Bynes, Jennifer Coolidge, and many, many more. --Bret Fetzer
Jennifer Coolidge returns as the voice of Aunt Fanny in a mildly amusing new short, "Aunt Fanny's Tour of Booty," which allows her to again be the butt of the joke. Fans of the characters will enjoy both a 17-minute discussion of the robots' creation as well as profiles of 11 of the bots, including early, almost unrecognizable conceptual sketches and brief interviews with the voice cast. The original short is fairly dull, and of the three deleted scenes, the most finished is an extended version of Rodney's initial meeting with Tim at the gate. One other is in sketch form only but does preserve another performance by Robin Williams. The kids' games are pretty good. There's a dancing robot that will perform eight routines on command or in random order. A memory game has a bit of replay value, and the build-a-bot segment takes some thought and investigation. The Xbox demo is a nifty little diversion that transforms one element (the transport-pod race) of the full-length, single-player Xbox game into a frenetic one- to four-player free-for-all.
In their commentary track, director Chris Wedge and producer-inspiration William Joyce have to remind each other to stop patting themselves on the back, but it is interesting to hear them talk about old games such as Mousetrap that played a part in developing the film. (Wedge's frequent references to a possible "director's cut" might not seem like a joke to DVD buyers who have gotten tired of DVD rereleases.) The commentary track by the Blue Sky technical team might be better, offering insights into the characters and the creation of the film without lapsing into too much techie-speak. --David Horiuchi
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