Astro Boy (Review)

Anime kids classic translates poorly to screen

Sometime in the future, the lucky humans of Metro City live in a floating paradise above the post-apocalyptic surface of the Earth, slaved over by armies of sentient, emotional robots who present happily subservient faces while grumbling to themselves about how they “hate” their jobs. It’s creepy and weird, and it’s something like a mecha minstrel show, particularly in how the film pretends to care about a “robots are people too” theme yet fails itself to treat them as such.

I’m not familiar with the 1960s Japanese cartoon that's the basis for this American retread, but I’m guessing it wasn’t this icky.

When his boy, Toby (the voice of Freddie Highmore), is killed, genius Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage) builds a replacement robot version. But if Tenma wants to pretend that this is his lost son, why the hell would Tenma trick the metal Toby out with such bizarre robotic accoutrements such as jet-powered feet and super-strength? Was it so Tenma could later reject the robot “son” precisely because it’s not human? Nah, of course not! Astro needs jet-powered feet, laser cannons in his hands and machine guns in his butt so he can fight other robots! The bad robots are powered by evil red energy instead of nice blue energy!

The only excuse that can be made for Astro Boy is that it obviously has no idea how unsettling it is. Nor how drearily dull it is. That might be a blessing for it, but for not for us. Grade: D

Opens Oct. 23. Check out theaters and show times, see more photos from the film and get theater details here.

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