Originally created 09/22/05

'Robots' tries to squeak past story by dazzling with its visual beauty



An exercise in style over substance, Robots labors under the mistaken belief that it's fine being just another pretty face.

Glossy and lovingly rendered in a way seen too often among the current crop of computer-animated features, this film about a country 'bot trying to find his way in the city breaks down under the metallic weight of its heart of gold messages that everyone is equal and you should follow your dreams. It loses any opportunity for nuance and intelligent, insightful humor.

What is left is soapbox preaching among the spinning gears and whirring wheels of this beautiful Rube Goldberg world. In fact, Robots' only success is in its visual inventiveness, its ability to keep finding innovative and interesting ways to spin the idea of a completely clockwork world. It's a cog-and-gear fantasy that, while populated with tin-thin characters, engages an audience just by the sheer audacity of design.

Still, as fantastic as the look and feel of the film are, it's ultimately an unmemorable and unmoving paint-by-numbers morality tale. Lessons are learned, moral codes enforced and the theorem of right-over-might proved yet again, but the sermon is delivered in such a predictable manner that all that remains are some brief flashes of dazzle, such as too-quick fireworks and the vaguely dissatisfied feeling that lingers long after the final image has faded to black.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

Home Screening

Title: Robots (Fox Home Entertainment;$29.98)

Release date: Coming Tuesday

Cast: Voices provided by Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams (who is as irritating animated as he is in person), Halle Berry and Mel Brooks

The Verdict: ** out of *****

DVD Extras: It's to this DVD's credit that much of the supplementary material focuses on design and not the writing process or performance. In fact, all things being equal, the documentaries and interviews included seem to insinuate that this was a well designed but thinly sketched concept that succeeded in being produced thanks, by and large, to its innovative style.