Stuck in the shadow of Pixar, the bods at Ice Age animation-house Blue Sky must feel a tad underappreciated. And stepping from the organic, textured and tough animated world of their prehistoric winner to the metallic gleam of a robo-driven globe seems, on the face of it, an odd way to garner praise. Surely it's a backward step, right? Wrong. For Chris Wedge and co have come up with an engrossing, immersive environment that's even more convincing and fun than its frosty forerunner. Robots is a hugely entertaining pixel-pusher that more than makes use of the techno-possibilities offered by its Metropolis-gone-Technicolor concept.
The `young 'un against the odds' story is pretty basic, but the balance of kid-pleasing slapschtick and adult-amusing wit is spot on. For the ankle-biters there's Robin Williams's Fender, a whacked-out "rustie" rapidly falling to pieces but driven by a kind heart (well, hard drive). It's Williams's most impressive family-orientated character since the Genie in Aladdin and while the motor-jawed star is given freedom to roam, Fender's warmth is never lost under a flurry of improviso-com.
And when the movie does run wild for a series of spectacular set-pieces, expect retina-zapping animation for the adults, as the Robots brains try to out-Scrat themselves. From the initial "train" marble ride through Robot City (that's been relentlessly splashed across trailers and promo clips) to Rodney's misadventures with magnetism, the stunts brim with invention, evoking the best of classic Warner Bros animations.
But even when it's at rest, the sheer level of thought and detail that crops up in every corner of Robots can't help but impress. Every minute is gag-packed and the running time dashes past leaving you wanting more.
Not everything is perfect - McGregor and Berry are stuck with rather bland leads - but when you have such a stellar supporting cast (particularly a tiny, inspired turn from Sideways star Paul Giamatti), this barely matters. Polished, oiled and in top working order, Robots presses all the right buttons.
Robots gets it right: smartly appealing to both the kids and their folks. The first decent family film of the year has been assembled.