PG-13 for intense stylized action, and some
brief partial nudity (see note and video alternative at bottom
of the review)
July 16, 2004
1 hr., 55 min.
Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, James Cromwell,
Bruce Greenwood, Alan Tudyk
Topher Dow, John Davis, Laurence Mark,
20th Century Fox
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By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter
- Set in 2035 Chicago, everyone now has an auto-driven car, a great
parking system, and a robot to clean, prepare dinner and defend the household.
But a tough, quick-witted and brooding cop, Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith),
is suspicious that robotic handymen are also a menacing danger. And he's right.
It seems a new program device placed in the new models overrides the built-in
system that prevents the machines from harming humans. And like poor Kevin
McCarthy in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," our hero can't get
anyone to believe him.
Besides being thrillers aimed at keeping us glued to our seats, great
sci-fi flicks often contain parables warning mankind of its capacity
to self-destruct ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The
Day The Earth Stood Still") or allegories saluting man's nobler
aspects and his endurance ("Signs," "The War of the
Worlds"). But, the trouble with this genre is that it takes an
extremely skilled directorial hand to be able to balance heady issues
within the action/fantasy format. If the filmmaker goes too far one
way, the result can be a bleak, melodramatic experience. If he goes
too far in the other direction, the film can be silly nonsense with
only one redeeming quality - CGI effects.
Here, the director tries to address themes of liberty, individual
purpose and free will, but his exploration of human emotions seems
superficial at times, while at other times they simply get overshadowed
by endless car chases and battle scenes.
In other words, "I, Robot" is not great sci-fi. However, it is
a good action movie. The action sequences are loud, busy and computer enhanced
to eye-filling satisfaction. Also going for it: Will Smith. Handsome for the
ladies, tough and swaggering for the guys, and funny and quick witted for
everybody. Here, Smith cements his reputation as an action/adventure movie
The film does include a lot of fantasy violence, with the lead nearly
single-handedly doing battle against countless mechanical men. Some
may view the violence in this film as a needed factor in resolving
the good vs. evil conflict. Others may find the amount here far too
aggressive for kids. I would advise against bringing children under
the age of thirteen. Concerned parents may believe their offspring
are already bombarded by desensitizing amounts of shoot-em-ups. And
My only other grievance concerns the profanity used by the film's
star. At one point Smith's character admonishes a teen street kid
for his abusive language. "Don't cuss, you're not good at it,"
he advises. Not a bad message, but it would have carried more weight
had the star also refrained from such obscenity. After all, his sweet-spirited
granny, who has raised him, attends church services. It is apparent
that he loves and respects the elderly woman. It's a good possibility
that she would have taught him not to take the Lord's name in vain.
Unfortunately, actors all too often use the phrase to convey rage
When an actor uses God's name followed by a curse, it symbolizes
the character's (and perhaps his own) lack of regard for spiritual
matters and also for those in the audience who place meaning in the
command found in Exodus 20:7. (Although many interpret that verse
to simply mean we are not to use God's name to swear falsely, there
is a solid argument that using the utterance "God----" is
also an irreverence to our Creator because it is usually said in anger
and frustration. So, am I saying, don't go to this film because there
are four misuses of God's name? No. That's your call. I'm just hoping
we don't get to the point where hearing profanity becomes acceptable.
For the next step could be the incorporating of the curse into our
own everyday dialogue.
Note: There are four profanities, nine obscenities, one crude
sexual comment and several minor expletives. The movie also has two
shower scenes, one revealing a man, the other a woman. However, the
steam covered shower stalls prevents the complete view of naked bodies;
the film mainly receives its rating for the violence, which includes
car crashes, shootouts and many battles with robots.
Video Alternative: If your interests run more towards suspense
and chills than the obliteration of attacking robots, allow me to
suggest this video alternative: Signs. Farmer Mel Gibson discovers
crop circles on his land. Soon the world is crawling with hostile
aliens. Like Hitchcock, director M. Night Shyamalan builds tension
through restraint. It's not what we see, but what we imagine that
scares us. Besides being an arm-grabbing suspenseful thriller, "Signs"
is an equally touching family drama. We get to know this broken family
as they cope with the traumatic loss of a wife and mother. There is
an intimacy in both script and presentation that causes us to care
for these people. Added to the drama and suspense is the story's subtext
about a man losing, then regaining his faith. The film also has an
intriguing take concerning coincidence in our daily lives. Do things
happen by chance or do they serve to develop our nature? Shyamalan's
film is about finding our way - or finding our way back.
Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. For more
information, visit www.moviereporter.com.
Review used by permission.
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