— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
“Astro Boy” is based on the 1950s Japanese comic series which was later adapted for television screens in 1963. Years later, the overseas hit enjoyed success in the American market. It has been remade once again but this time it’s being released in theaters.
David Bowers, who also directed the CGI hit “Flushed Away,” has taken the reign for Astro Boy’s first feature film. Self-titled after the young superhero, “Astro Boy” sadly does not cater to both adults and children.
Jokes fall flat, presentation is dull, and the characters are just plain boring.
“Astro Boy” follows the adventures of Tobio (Freddie Highmore), a young boy whose father is the renowned scientist Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage). Tobio is a robotics enthusiast, who sneaks into his father’s presentation of a classified war-machine to President Stone (Donald Sutherland). Stone’s thirst for military power causes him to use the negative “red” energy on the robot, causing it to go out of control killing the young Tobio.
Dr. Tenma, instead of grieving the loss of his child, decides to create a robotic replica that is later named “Astro.” With the help of his assistant Dr. Elefun (Bill Nighy), Tenma successfully uses the adverse of the “red” energy that took his son’s life, the positive “blue” energy, to awaken the robotic substitute, but to Tenma’s surprise, though Astro has the memories of his deceased son, he isn’t the same. He runs the young robot out of his home, where the foul Stone catches up to Astro. Stone wants to use Astro’s power source, “blue” energy, to earn him another term as president.
The plot is formulaic and doesn’t have a shred of originality, and though it is based on a Saturday morning cartoon, that doesn’t make it acceptable to have the film revolve around worn-out clichés. The whole second sequence shamelessly resembles the award-winning “Wall-E.”
The pacing is another problem. The film often lingers too long on a certain scene and then rushes through another, it is never stable.
The voice acting in “Astro Boy” is terrible; all the characters speak in monotone and there is no comic-timing for the jokes, which are trite anyway. It is a shame because the cast includes the talents of Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy, Samuel L. Jackson, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane and Charlize Theron.
Presentation is not bad, but it doesn’t feel fresh. The action scenes are somewhat satisfying but mostly fall flat, but the movie’s target audience is sure to enjoy them for what they are, colorful and outrageous. On a somewhat related side-note, I couldn’t get this out of my head during the viewing: Why does Dr. Tenma look strikingly similar to Flint Lockwood of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”?
Bowers tries to make “Astro Boy” a treat for both adults and kids alike by adding philosophy and history references along with a political undertone, but it fails to muster up anything interesting for the older demographic because of the aged plot and presentation, bad dialogue and the bad voice acting that accompanies it but children are sure to enjoy this colorful superhero tale.
Click here for three clips from “Astro Boy.”
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