Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 04 November 2009
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
He’s a little robot, formerly named Toby, (Freddie Highmore, voice) whose human form perishes in a misguided project headed by his father, Dr. Tenma (Nicholas Cage, voice). Astro Boy doesn’t know he’s not human. He lives in, or rather, on Metro City, an aerial metropolis where the human population is served exclusively by robots. The Toby robot himself has a metal servant named Orrin (Eugene Levy, voice) to serve him. Orrin knows Toby is no longer human, but the young robot is oblivious.
Dr. Tenma has filled his surrogate son with positive blue energy, giving him super-human power. A negative red energy has also been invented (for no discernible purpose, it seems, other than to cause conflict). Kindly Dr. Elefun (Bill Nighy, voice) keeps a compassionate, watchful eye on both energy sources.
Throw a corrupt politician, the war-mongering Metro City President Stone (Donald Sutherland, voice) into the mix, and the red energy is unleashed, (surprise!) causing all kinds of chaos.
Meanwhile, Earth is derisively called “the surface” by the robot-lulled, mindless inhabitants in the sky, and an uneasy atmosphere between organic and metallic beings, creating the setting for a battle between man and robot, man and former man, human versus technology, all kinds of polarizing issues. An unsatisfying father-son relationship finds Toby banished from his house and ultimately ending up on planet Earth
A group of surface kids befriend Toby in a trash dump, thinking him human, but adult exploiter Hamegg (Nathan Lane, voice) sees a way to make a quick buck with the little super-powered robot, now renamed Astro. Human friend Cora (Kristen Bell, voice) and the kids, all robot haters, turn their back on Astro when they discover he has circuits instead of circulation.
Astro Boy can fly. He’s got atomic powered feet and guns coming out of his butt. Despite being able to single-handedly save Mankind, all he wants his for his dad to love him. All President Stone wants is Astro’s blue energy to temper the red energy of a super-weapon robot, ironically called The Peace Keeper. Hamegg wants more players in his robot gladiator coliseum. Dr. Tenma, after more thought, would like his boy back in any configuration.
It doesn’t take me to tell you that there will be a battle-filled climax, which should please the nano-second attention span generation, but might leave anyone else anxious for all of the noise to cease.
Nicholas Cage and Nathan Lane’s voices are instantly recognizable here, and that recognition works for Lane. Cage has too much baggage attached to his vocal style to believe he’s a scientist. Donald Sutherland and Bill Nighy come across as much more subtle in their portrayals.
Director David Bowers (Flushed Away) blends the style of his animated film to reflect both Japanese and American flavors. He also co-wrote the script with Timothy Harris (Space Jam) incorporating a robot proletariat, a human underclass, haves and have-nots, human or otherwise, and the glaringly symbolic blue and red “energies.” In dealing with darker subject matter, rejection, acceptance, social unrest, Astro Boy may not be everyone’s cup of tea, although the entertainment factor for children is high, even if mom and dad don’t appreciate the communist references and social commentary.
Narrated by Charlize Theron, the titular Japanese series premiered in 1951 as a manga series (Osamu Tezuka’s comic books) and now, 58 years later, makes it to American audiences in increasingly rare 2-D animation, no less.
The plot’s a bit unimaginative and appears to be a conglomeration of action-adventure heroes of the past. Battle scenes are prolonged and there are too many of them. The ending sets up the premise for a sequel, so you know the little hero will be back. Kids will most likely want to see it. Whether their parents share the sentiment remains to be seen.