By their own admission, the makers of Robots had the concept of a city filled with robots long before any kind of story. This is unusual to say the least. Most movies are made with a story in mind first, and then the creators develop the look, the concepts and the creative ideas thereafter. So it should come as no surprise that Robots borrows many ideas from other movies and not only those of the animated variety.
The basic storyline goes something like this; Rodney (Ewan McGregor) is a small town, son of a dishwasher, robot who believes he is destined for great things and decides to travel to Robot City to meet the greatest of all Robots, Master Inventor, Bigweld (Mel Brooks) and to show him his own invention, a robotic dishwasher.
Things take a turn for the worse when he discovers Bigweld has been superseded and replaced by evil tyrant Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) who wants to sell upgrades to all robots and do away with spare parts so as to make himself and his mother very, very rich. Rodney puts his skills as an inventor and as a repairer to good use as he and his band of friends, which includes the mischievous rascal Fender (Robin Williams being Robin Williams!) try to save Bigweld, help the other robots and overthrow the nasty Ratchet.
Simple it is...Original it sure isn't!
Taking cues from such films as A Bugs Life and Shrek to name but two, Robots tries to make up for it's lack of storyline originality by stunning us with it's technical wizardry and detailed creative concepts, but does it work? The biggest problem with Robots is how difficult it is for the viewer to connect with the characters. A metallic, cold, hard robot just doesn't make you go 'awww' like say, a soft cuddly Donkey does in Shrek, or even a stupid, useless Sid the Sloth does in Ice Age. But it's not all bad news. Robots does contain some genuinely funny scenes and 'in' jokes for us adults such as the robot at the station dancing the 'robot' dance and the station announcer having an incoherent voice even when not talking over the microphone. Plus of course the animation is breathtaking. The overall feel is that of nostalgia. It cleverly mixes the futuristic concept of a world full of robots with an eighteenth century industrial revolution feel as well as 1950's America thrown in. The use of lighting gives a very diffuse, soft look but at the same time, detail is such that occasionally, you think the robots are real metal.
At the end of the day, it's a movie aimed at children with enough entertainment for the adults included to encourage them to take the children to see it in the first place. Robots is a reasonably quaint film which the children should enjoy and the adults should stay awake through. It doesn't offer the repeated viewing value of say, Toy Story and I cannot see the children rushing out to get Rodney figures either but I can recommend to as one to watch, even if only once.