Mediocre Machines

click to enlarge Robin Williams voices Fender in Robots. - blue sky studios
blue sky studios
Robin Williams voices Fender in Robots.

Colorful, zippy, safe and harmless family fare about an idealistic, highly principled young robot (voice of Ewan McGregor) struggling to make his dreams a reality in the Big, Bad Mechanical World.

This is the latest offering from Twentieth Century Fox's animation wing (creators of Ice Age, as the ads are incessantly reminding us), and the computer-generated animation, voice talent and test marketing are the best money can buy. Inspiration, however, is another matter. Robots is briskly entertaining stuff but not particularly memorable, a Pixar-lite affair that hones a little too closely to a proven formula it doesn't dare expand on. The movie is filled with wacky antics, pretty pictures, cute sidekicks and kid-approved bodily function jokes (with just enough pop culture references and clever asides to keep grown-ups happy), but most of the characters are simply too bland for their own good, and the story is little more than a predictable fleshing out of the obligatory follow-your-dream message. There's some nice Freudian hoodoo going on with the movie's dual villains - a metallic slimeoid son and his alpha-bitch robo-mom - and the requisite Robin Williams performance is not nearly as annoying as you might expect, but there's not much here with a life that extends beyond the marketing tie-ins. Also features the voices of Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks and Amanda Bynes.

Robots (PG), opens in theaters on March 11.

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