Pixar is making things hard for its competitors. That a review of Robots, a Blue Sky/Fox release, begins with the word "Pixar" explains why. Feature-length-especially computer-animated films are now judged against Pixar's sterling lineup.
So how does Robots (rated PG for some brief language and suggestive humor) stack up? Overall, pretty well-but cut out the credits and it's still clear this is no Pixar release.
For one thing, look at the rating. The Incredibles was the first Pixar movie to receive a PG rating-and that was for "action violence." No mention of "suggestive humor." Robots doesn't take things especially far, certainly not to the level of Shrek, but the occasional crudity or innuendo just feels cheap, easy, and unnecessary.
The story is a little more involving than most. Rodney Copperbottom (voiced primarily by Ewan McGregor) is a young robot from a small town with dreams of making it big as an inventor. He's inspired by the larger-than-life Bigweld (Mel Brooks), owner of Bigweld Industries. Rodney, of humble origins and hand-me-down parts, is inspired by Bigweld's corporate slogan: "You can shine no matter what you're made of!"
But when Rodney arrives wide-eyed in Robot City, Bigweld himself is nowhere to be found; smug underling Ratchet (Greg Kinnear) is running the company with a new slogan: "Why be you when you can be new?" It's up to Rodney and some new friends to foil Ratchet's devious plans.
The futuristically retro production design of Robots is a lot of fun-a windup toy version of last year's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. And the film takes some worthwhile jabs at the personal-fulfillment materialism of advertising. But don't expect these characters to stick with you like, oh, say, Dash, Violet, or baby Jack-Jack.