Starring Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard
Released: 8 March 2013 (UK)
The near future… Concerned about his ex-cat burglar father Frank’s failing memory, his son get him a robot ‘butler’… Frank discovers he’s the perfect partner for a heist!
This comedy with light sci-fi elements depends on character for its laughs, rather than any high concept futuristic gimmickry. The robot that is sent to help Frank out is based upon the current experimental Asimo model, just slightly sleeker and more adept at manual tasks. There’s also maybe a hint of WALL-E about him.
Initially Frank (Langella) doesn’t want the robot (seductively voiced by Sarsgard) his son (James Marsden) delivers, but when he realizes it has not been programmed for morality and makes a great locksmith, he’s soon cooking up a B&E job at the ailing local library where his friend Jennifer (Sarandon) works.
Then it’s on to bigger things, with a jewel theft from the young ‘consultant’ who is redesigning the library as a ‘community space’ without any books. Frank’s hippy-dippy daughter (Liv Tyler) has a mild case of robophobia, but even she comes around when she sees how the robot has put a new spring in her father’s step.
The star turn here is Langella, a screen presence we don’t see enough of these days. He’s got the curmudgeonly old man bit down pat, but he also brings nuance to Frank, as he finds his memory slipping and his robbery abilities waning.
This is a buddy movie where one half of the team is a piece of tech. When the law is onto Frank and the only way to hide his crimes is to wipe his plastic pal’s memory, the robot’s entreaties that he’s not a real person don’t wash with Frank. Half the time, he seems to mistake the robot for his son. However, this robot is no Bicentennial Man, but a kindly helper with a voice reminiscent of HAL 9000 (but no homicidal tendencies).
Not quite Amour with androids, Robot and Frank is nonetheless an amusing caper movie with a twist. It has an indie sensibility with a light sci-fi froth. That said, it does finally tumble into sentimental tweeness by the end, but the trip to get there is fun.
Verdict: Better than you might think, but not quite as wild and anarchic as it could have been, 7/10
Brian J. Robb