Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) had a fairly inauspicious upbringing in the area of Rivet Town. As with all his fellow robots, he was bought from a kit by his parents, and as he grew older more parts would be added to his frame as he turned from a baby to a child to an adolescent to a man, mostly thanks to hand-me-downs courtesy of his family. What he really wants to be is an inventor, and his hero Bigweld (Mel Brooks), a business tycoon who sponsors big ideas on television, is someone Rodney wishes to meet, so he leaves home to follow his dreams in the city...
Once Pixar proved that film studios could make a heap of money with well-crafted computer generated animation for family audiences, all the others with the funds to spare jumped on the bandwagon, and so it was with Twentieth Century Fox and their hit Ice Age movies. But in between the first and second of those, a wannabe next big thing called Robots was released, directed by the same team, yet not to the same levels of success. It may have comfortably made back its budget, but it hasn't stuck in the mind quite the same as some of its peers.
This is odd, because as far as the design went, Robots was handsomely constructed, with an intricately devised world of machines that an obvious amount of work had gone into. But aside from its fine look, there are problems with this from the start, as we see when they try to marry twenty first century human concerns to the lives of contraptions that don't logically need, for example, to grow from infants to adults when they could simply buy a kit of a full grown robot and save a lot of time. Then there's the film's themes, which concern the corporate side of business and how it can depersonalise and even ruin the lives of ordinary folk.
Pretty rich coming from a massive conglomerate of the type that owns Twentieth Century Fox, but I suppose we should be glad there are still humanistic values surviving in a faceless multinational company even if they are out to make as much money out of as possible. This film wants to entertain, so there are some very basic jokes that presumably appeal to undemanding kids along with over-their-heads references for the adults - unfortunately these are not any improvement on the level of the kids' jokes. And with Robin Williams voicing Rodney's roguish new friend Fender, you can expect that kind of humour to flow thick and fast.
It plays out predictably, with all elements, from gags to heroes to villains well posted, but at such a fast pace that it leaves you little chance to pause and wonder about such oddities as, if they're hiring Ewan McGregor to voice the protagonist, why don't they allow him to use his famous Scottish accent and have him put on an American one instead? Not to mention that McGregor should have told the writers that the Aunt Fanny joke simply wouldn't travel. But for all the middling entertainment value, Robots is redeemed by its aforementioned appearance, and a curious message for that asks for an American National Health Service to be set up: the main plotline sees the bad guys trying to allow the "sick" robots to die off if they cannot afford the equivalent of health insurance and upgrade themselves. If left wing politics don't interest you, you can always spot the star voices and wonder why most of them don't really distinguish themsleves. Music by John Powell.