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March 13, 2005

Robots (Starring Robin Williams)

Is it me or is Robin Williams just too manic and full of himself?

I think I've listened to my last unsubtle 1.5-entendre. After about an hour of it, it goes downhill. 'Robots', at a theatre near you, is about as formulaic as it is possible to make an animated feature and still have it actually be funny. But after it's over you feel like you've been tied down, sent through an MRI and tickled strategically.

But I'll tell you what it is that irks me where I have no business being irked. It's the unrelenting reactionary anti-corporatism. Jeez what a load of shallow grease. I think that as time moves forward, there's a clear difference between the writing at Pixar and everywhere else. Pixar is the class act. Everybody else sucks. I mean if you're going to launch a screed against corporate greed, do it with real characters, not a ragtag gang of automatons with less personality than the crew at the Rugrats (or the Teen Titans, or Jimmy Neutron, or The Fairly Oddparents, or Spongebob Squarepants, or Monsters Inc, or half a dozen other kid-friendly joints).

I lay odds that this whole mangled affair was the brainfart of Robin Williams who must have had a bet with somebody that he could do half his routine in drag without offending anyone. It's not offensive to anyone doesn't know the difference between a hero and a sidekick, or people too slow-witted to know that there are other moral forces in the world besides the violent rebellion of the angry masses.

It's Robin Williams all over the place overacting roughshod over what might have otherwise been a charming movie for adulds as well as goofy fun for kids. Instead, Williams runs his robot through at least 20 different voices without so many as 3 costume changes. Instead of a flawed hero overcoming his own insecurities, Rodney Copperbottom (oh yeah him, this is his story right?) is just an ordinary guy trying to fill a need; Robin Williams as 'Fender' is the flaw.

Ick. The more I think about the spindly legs upon which the clunky morality of this tale does the robot, the more I hate thinking about it and the less I can recommend it. Not that it's not funny, but it's fart-joke funny and I can only take my debasements in pairs. If the ensemble would have gelled, if only there had been more to the story than just plot, if Williams would have just fit inside his character, if Halle Berry had said more than 100 words, if somebody could explain why Big Weld was so fat...

Giving credit where credit is due, I can't recall the last evil mother working through her pretty boy script since The Manchurian Candidate. Nice touch. A passive-aggressive momma's boy - the only character with a tie. On the other hand, poor Rodney Copperbottom, not only does he not really get the girl (or if he does, we can't really tell which one), but he does the whole thing for his dad.

This is a film with no real heroes, and in that regard it is inferior even to 'Shark Tale'. Yes that's right, Shark Tale is superior to this bucket of bolts when it comes to the story.

Where Robots shines is in its slapstick. There's a brilliant scene in which Copperbottom gets magnetized - classic. It does a pretty decent job making jabs and takeoffs on other movies, but seems a bit shy to lay it on as thick as it should have - well with any actor other than Williams. Aunt Fanny is as big a crackup as she should have been, and the fart and booty jokes are top shelf.

I swear I hope this flick doesn't get past the DVD.

Posted by mbowen at March 13, 2005 05:08 PM

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Cobb on "Robots": My fellow brotherhood blogger, Michael Cobb Bowen (I refer to him as "the law firm") begins his commentary on the new movie "Robots" by reinforcing something I have been saying for years: Robin Williams is a crackhead.... [Read More]

Tracked on March 14, 2005 02:41 AM


while i can understand your being underwhelmed by Robin Williams maniacal performance, i was wondering what you thought about the decontextualization of hip hop in the movie.

well, decontextualization to a certain point. although the hip hop/black culture vignettes didn't necessarily rely on skin color, i thought it was interesting to see elements of "us" in there.

there was: the HBCU-style marching band; the street performer doing the "robot"; the Chingy songs; the "you go girl" moment provided by the silent character; the breakdancing moves by the small flying robot...let's not even mention robin williams lame-ass impression of a black woman from brooklyn...

i can't help but wince every time i see these on-screen moments of "blackness" in this movie or other crap like "Racing Stripes" or any Queen Latifah vehicle. they either occur for a laugh or to express the "hipness" of the character in question.

i agree with you on the Pixar thing - they make quality movies - all without EVER relying on pimping blackness to give their characters emotional depth .

Posted by: Bemused at March 13, 2005 09:57 PM

This movie was really lacking soul, and so things that folks expect to have some emotional resonance simply didn't. It would have only taken a moment's more work to work some soul into it.. but then again maybe they were trying keep that ed sullivan, 50s streamline moderne, pleasantville vibe rolling. That didn't work well either. In fact, I can't remember any of the music in this clunker, except for the chop shop theme, and the vocals on that were completely unintelligible.

I expected as much hiphop in this flick, and it doesn't really bother me that it was particularly disembodied. I mean, hell that *is* Amanda Bynes. I don't know what's worse, decontextualized white hiphop or decontextualized black hiphop. Maybe I should have seen Fat Albert for comparison, but there's something very Urkel about a lot of blackified cultural production for kids. There hasn't been anything healthy since Waynehead. I mean when it gets down to it, the Wayans are almost singlehandedly holding down all the black family entertainment.

Now take the other hand. If the real context for hiphop today was on the screen, there'd be no way to keep it PG. The social context of hiphop is no place for kids to be. I don't care how many good cops Ice T plays, he's still an ex-pimp and a full-time hustler. The best of MCs are still doing the same old underground bohemian thing and there hasn't been a real kid friendly hiphop hit between the Baha Men and when the Peas stopped getting 'retarded' and just got 'it started'. What am I saying? You really want to know? I am stating the case for MC Hammer. Because when it comes down to it, there has been nobody since Hammer who kept it fresh, wholesome and real, who crossed-over everywhich way, like good music is supposed to. Show me a rapper who can actually dance. Who? Maybe Jamiroquai, and Usher. OK? The closest we get is Destiny's Child... anyway don't get me started.

The blackest movie out there is 'Be Cool' and I haven't heard anybody say squat about it. You would think people would, considering the director and the Peas, and all that. But no!

People don't want to go mainstream, fine. Let 'em have their niche underground market. And people wonder why Lil Kim doesn't know how to behave. She thought she was! But she was just keepin' it real to her lil audience. Meanwhile Will Smith walks away with the big bag of marbles. That's a man who handles his business. Him and Omar Epps.


Posted by: Cobb at March 14, 2005 02:12 AM

I'm wondering if maybe this movie is really pro-capitalism. The problem came about precisely because there was no free market--it was a monopoly that allowed all the spare parts to be taken off the market. But maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part.

Posted by: Misty at March 14, 2005 08:18 AM