Making the Grades
Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) was delivered to Mr. and Mrs. Copperbottom (Stanley Tucci and Dianne Wiest) as a make-a-baby kit. The bouncing bucket-of-bolts grows to robot maturity by swapping outgrown hardware for big boy parts (usually hand-me-downs) every few years.
Although he is just the son of a humble dishwasher, Rodney's loving family encourages him to work hard and follow his dreams. Inspired by a TV show hosted by Big Weld (Mel Brooks), the most influential robot in their mechanical civilization, the youngster determines to become an inventor. With the slogan "See a need--fill a need" ringing in his audio receivers, he begins a work-in-progress that keeps him busy throughout his teen years.
One day he introduces his coffee-pot-turned-domestic-help to the kitchen of the greasy spoon where his father works. The gadget polishes plates to perfection -- until the boss walks in. In a moment of nervous panic, the kettle goes berserk, smashing Rodney's hopes as quickly as the dishware.
Packing his bags for Robot City, the budding inventor sets out to show his contraption to someone who might appreciate the genius behind it-- Big Weld himself. This task proves to be more difficult than expected. Arriving at the gates of the famous factory, Rodney learns his idol has disappeared and Phineas T. Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) is running the company. Changing the corporate logo from "You can shine no matter what you are made of" to "Why be you when you can be new?" the CEO's moneymaking strategy focuses on selling upgrades, instead of developing innovative ideas or manufacturing replacement parts. This philosophy not only excludes visionaries like Rodney, but also jeopardizes the continued existence of all worn or dated machines.
Tossed out like yesterday's trash, Rodney must now use his creative thinking skills to find a way to save the shabbier side of his society -- the class to which he belongs. Befriended by a gang known as the "Rusties," the little-robot-that-could rallies the "outmodes" to prevent them from being collected as scrap metal.
While depictions of violence (usually played for laughs), a domineering matriarch, revenge tactics, and a fiery furnace might be a bit frightening for little viewers, another monkey wrench in this well-oiled script may be the inclusion of mild sexual humor. From making a baby, to cross-gender body parts, and a character called Aunt Fanny because of her bulging behind, innuendo springs up frequently. Many are given voice by Fender (Robin Williams), a dilapidated crank-handled device that seldom appears to be operating on all cylinders. Other concerns for parents will be the bathroom and flatulence jokes, as well as drinking at a social gathering and congratulatory cigar smoking.
Otherwise witty and imaginative, the computer animation in this film will have audiences riveted to the screen -- especially the sequence where Rodney takes a cross-town transport. Locked inside a cage-like ball, the trip is best described as a mix between an amusement park ride and an elaborate pinball machine. And it is guaranteed to leave more than his traveling companion feeling a tad motion sick.
Where Robots really shines is in its message that even the smallest cog in the largest machine has an integral and important role to play. This theme should build a greater appreciation for life's "little people" and may even have you thinking twice the next time you consider replacing or throwing away an aging appliance.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Robots.
Fender offers Rodney some encouraging words like; “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere—and if you can’t make it here, welcome to the club.” How does his humor help the starry-eyed dreamer come to terms with reality? How can you balance hope and disappointment?
How do the various characters respond as the situation for the outmoded machines becomes more desperate? How do they stop being the victim of their circumstances and begin to take control of their situation? Could you make a similar attitude adjustment in your life?