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Robot & Frank

MoviesPeter SarsgaardRichard JenkinsAcademy AwardsRobot and Frank (movie)Frank Langella

Read the following paragraph in that deep voice-over you hear in movie trailers: In the not so distant future, when robots have taken over the old-folks home…

In this charming little sci-fi, buddy comedy meets indi film, we meet a guy named Frank. I know, his name in real life is Frank Langella and that’s weird. It’s also weird that he starts the movie by robbing his own house. In most movies, when the old guy gets dementia, he merely forgets the dogs name. It makes sense that a thief would be confused by things we haven’t even considered.

His son (James Marsden) gets sick of being asked about college, since he graduated 15 years earlier; and with the house starting to look like something you’d see on hoarders, he brings him a robot. Of course, it talks like HAL from 2001 (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). The robot will act as a caretaker who will improve his health, although I laughed when after the first dinner he brings in a cake. It was even funnier to see the look on Frank’s face as he asks “Where’d he get that?”

His facial expressions are perfect in this, sometimes channeling Alan Arkin.

This movie will probably bring him an Oscar nomination, and it reminded me of how in The Visitor everyone got to see just how talented Richard Jenkins was.

Liv Tyler plays the daughter that’s traveling the world trying to fight for humans to keep their jobs. She pops up on Skype (which has bigger screens in the future…cars have gotten smaller).

Unfortunately, the trailers already showed you that Frank learns to love the robot – when he realizes he can teach it to pick locks a lot quicker than he ever was.

Will this lead to the retired cat burglar to rob again? I’ll let you see the film to find out, since it’s a movie you really should catch.

Susan Sarandon is fine as the local librarian that Frank has a thing for, but I absolutely hated the direction their relationship took late in the movie.

I did enjoy how she was being replaced by a more primitive robot, as well as all the books being taken away and replaced by electronic versions. It was like a low-key Twilight Zone episode.

When police question Frank on a robbery in town, I wanted him to throw his hands up and say “I am not a crook!” (remember, he played tricky Dick in Frost/Nixon).

There are lots of little touches of humor that work. And just like how we warmed up to the angry codger in Up, we also like Frank more as he warms up to the robot. Sometimes it’s nice to see a sci-fi film that doesn’t have a bizarre alien eating out your eyeballs and anal probing you. This robot merely probes the human condition. It’s like Moon meets The Notebook.

If you’re somebody that likes a little more action and a post apocalyptic future, and you aren’t just satisfied to know that license plates get longer – this isn’t for you.

The final scene was the best closing I’ve seen in a movie all year.

It gets 3 stars out of 5.

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