Never trust robots, until they make you steak dinners. Then, it’s okay.
Set somewhere in the near, but not too distant future, Frank (Frank Langella) is an aging jewel thief whose son (James Marsden) buys him a domestic robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) mainly because he cannot take care of him being about 10-hours away. Even though he’s very resistant at first with the robot, Frank warms up when and realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar.
Everybody seems to like to make jokes about what could possibly happen, but the idea of having robots practically take over most human’s positions in the world, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched after seeing a movie like this. I mean, think about it: if some human is tired and bored of doing what they do, why not just get a computer/robot that’s programmed to do the same work, with more inspiration, and probably with better results as well? It’s definitely something that most people can poo-poo to the side and say it’s just crazy talk, but I’m serious, if we don’t look out, sooner or later, the robots will be taking over the world. First it’s the jobs, then it’s the wife and kids, then it’s the president, and then it’s the world from there. Okay, maybe not that crazy and drastic, but just you wait you non-believers. Just you wait.
But those simple ideas and thoughts aren’t really the gist of this movie and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It’s a sci-fi film that does include robots, but isn’t all about shit blowing-up, intergalactic battles, and possible end of the world talk. It’s just a realistic and honest, human film that just so happens to involve a talking robot that does and says whatever it’s programmed to do. Think of it as I, Robot without all of the guns, bombs, fights, explosions, kick-ass score, and a constantly-yelling Will Smith.
This film isn’t all about showing robots taking over the positions and roles that most humans fill; it’s actually about a sweet, tender story of a man getting old and trying to still connect with the world he once knew. Through the robot, Frank is able to relive his glory days as a cat burglar and feels the type of rush and sensation that he hasn’t felt in years, and most of all: hasn’t been able to feel them with anybody else. See, Frank is a crook and was never really able to live that up with his kids or his wife, so it was always just him riding solo and committing crimes. Not the worst way to conduct business, but a bit of a lonely-experience if you think about it. That’s why it’s nice to see him and the robot talk with one-another about life, what they’re doing, and all of the sweet, fond memories that Frank had from his golden-days and it’s as sad as it is sweet.
Getting old is a pretty damn big part of life and it’s something that we can never avoid. Yet, at the same time, it’s something that we can all help by caring for the other’s that need it the most and that’s exactly what this flick shows. You see a friendship between this robot and Frank actually start-up and you see how the other one cares for the other and it’s very surprising how many depths there are to this friendship, as well as how nice they treat it, rather than making it some old-school joke about a cook treating some robot like a human-being. Hell, the movie itself even tries to remind Frank that the robot is not human and as painfully honest as that was to see on-screen, it still made me sad to think that there are just some people out there who probably cannot tell the difference by what is real and what isn’t, and for them, it all comes down to emotions. It’s a thoughtful-idea that the movie plants into your head, and it’s one that the movie still treats with respect and care, sort of like it’s protagonist.
However, the idea’s of getting old and going through dementia aren’t that subtle to see, especially by the last-act when everything begins to get obvious and heavy-handed. We get that the movie wanted us to know that Frank is going through a hard-time with life in trying to remember what he had for dinner 2 days ago, but it gets to a point of where it just seems like the flick is making it TOO obvious. It’s nice how they treat the idea, overall, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, you realize that they could have played it a bit safer and just kept on doing what they did in the first-place. May seem like a bit of a dumb negative to hold against the flick, but it’s something I noticed and didn’t swing too well with me.
The one element of this movie that did swing very, very well with me was Frank Langella as, well, Frank. Langella has this lovable and endearing look and feel to him that makes it easy for us to fall-behind the guy’s back and just wish for the best, but what really makes this performance work is how much you believe in this guy in what he’s going through. He doesn’t forget stuff like how to tie his shoes or turn the television on, but simple things like what his kids are up to in the world or where his favorite restaurant is, really stood-out to me and the way that Langella handles that character’s real-life dilemma with such believe-ability, really worked for me. Langella, in my mind, can almost do no wrong, and here, he gets to show me exactly why it is that I think that and why the guy can still take over a movie, even if he’s not playing one of our most famous president’s of all-time.
The one that really took me by surprise here was Peter Sarsgaard, who literally doesn’t do anything else in this movie other than voice the robot, but he does it so well that it is totally worth being mentioned. Sarsgaard has this voice that is instantly recognizable, by the way it’s so sinister, yet so compelling in the way that he can make little phrases or words sound so devious, yet have so much more meaning that it’s insane. The guy’s always a creep-o in the movies that I see him in, but since he only has to voice the robot, he seems more humane and kinder with the way he uses his words to convey emotion and feeling. Which is weird, because he’s voicing a robot that apparently has neither emotion nor feeling. It’s a great job by Sarsgaard who shows that just by having strong vocal-chords, you can still make the most-compelling character out of the whole movie.
James Marsden and Liv Tyler play Frank’s kids and they’re both pretty good, especially because they get to show how much they love their daddy and will do anything for him, yet still have their own lives to look after as well. I liked how the movie didn’t just make them a bunch of sneaky, lying pieces-of-shits that were ungrateful for everything that dear old daddy did for them, but I still would have liked to see a little bit more to their characters and their history with Frank. Susan Sarandon is here as Frank’s love-interest, and does a pretty nice job with what she’s given, but is just here to serve the plot and serve Frank’s moral dilemma. She’s okay with what she has to do, but it also feels like a bit of a waste for such a beautiful and powerful talent.
Consensus: Even if you might not suspect it to be more than just a movie about a guy and a robot becoming friends, you still will be surprised to know that Robot & Frank features plenty of depth and emotions about the fact that people get old, that it sucks, and that it’s up to us to care for those ones who need our help the most. It’s also a sweet, little story about a guy and robot becoming friends, as well.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!