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2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
2006 Roundup
2007 Roundup
2008 Roundup
2009 Roundup

 

"I, Robot"

Directed by Alex Proyas.
Written by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman.  Based on some random ideas by Isaac Asimov.
Starring Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Chi McBride and Bruce Greenwood.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  7/16/04

Folks--

Dave Bell (my brother, who is always referred to by his full name) and I were talking on the phone earlier this week.

Dave:  "Man, you goin' to see 'I, Robot?'  I don't know, the trailer looks pretty tight..."
Me:  "You're right, but I don't know, I'm getting that 'it's all in the trailer' feeling, you know?  Action looks pretty good, though..."
Dave:  "Yeah, but Will Smith, you know..."
Me:  "Yeah, true.  I still think 'Bad Boys 2' was pretty solid, you know?"

This went on for a while, and I went back to thinking about it...I haven't really seen too many dogshit Will Smith movies, except for that piece of turtle dung "The Legend of Bagger Vance", another film that I saw courtesy of a freebie from my friend Tricia, who told me she had freebies for "I, Robot."

Uh-oh.  Trouble?

No.  In fact, "I, Robot" was so good that I can't believe I was so wrong.  It's the kind of summer movie that seemed in prevalence two years ago, a well-written PG-13 that had enough action and laughs to keep you entertained for two hours without a problem.  Will Smith plays Detective Del Spooner, a Chicago police guy that lives in a near-future world that is dominated by robot service workers and personal servants.  U.S. Robotics has the biggest building in the city and is on the eve of releasing its newest robot, the NS-5, and just before the world release of the new product, the new model's inventor (James Cromwell) is found dead, an apparent suicide in the city's headquarters.  Spooner, who had a close relationship with the inventor, is sent in to investigate, and if you've seen any of the trailers, well, you know the rest.

The script, touched up by Akiva Goldsman (Oscar winner, for "A Beautiful Mind") after an older draft by Jeff Vintar, is loaded with deeper subtext than the standard-issue sci-fi action film, and that makes "I, Robot" the kind of movie that both mainstream and more critical audiences can enjoy.  It also helps that the script is injected with enough attitude and funny quips to make Smith handle all of the film so well; sure, he's playing himself once again, but everything just feels darker, so in between uproarious lines ("Sorry...I'm allergic to bullshit!"), he's cursing out another officer or genuinely scared about a future run by walking can openers.

Most of the success of "I, Robot", though, comes at the hands of its director, Alex Proyas ("The Crow").  He mixes in the action scenes of the film quite well, but the vision of this future as a sleek, cold cityscape really works without digging too much into a "Blade Runner"-style future, where everything is bleak and crime is everywhere and good guys are always sitting at bars contemplating a soulless future.  Sure, Proyas falls victim to some ridiculous insertions (slow pan, right to left, of Spooner in the shower just had our audience laughing hysterically) and a couple of strange logistical twists, like how the main robot in the film, Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk), kills other robots by doing malicious things like snapping their necks, Rambo-in-"First Blood"-style.  (Do programmers make their robots learn to kill like Special Forces soldiers?  Hmm...)  Similar to "Paycheck" from earlier this year, scientists who have never handled weapons before seem to be quicker learners that police officers or professional gunrunners; Bridget Moynahan plays a U.S. Robotics staffer that goes from clumsy automatic weapon user to markswoman so fast you think you missed the training session.

Plus, the script does occasionally fall victim to Hollywood action conventions, so in the inevitable scene where Spooner's police chief (Chi McBride, who has cornered the fuckin' market on this role, playing it for laughs in "Undercover Brother" and for dramatic effect in "Narc" in the last three years alone) asks Spooner for his gun and badge, I don't think anyone could have stopped me from laughing out loud at the cliché of it all.  And of course, we have to have a shot of someone diving in slow motion with dual pistols, so we get that one thrown in for bonus points.

But, the action is fast-paced and generally well-filmed.  The body count is high once again for a PG-13 (this IS a Will Smith flick, though), the laughs are well placed and the special effects really are quite strong; the robot effects are cool and, in the futuristic landscape that the film represents, it seems to mix quite well between real actors and sets and the ever-present blue screen.  "I, Robot" is a good time with a packed audience; sure, I saw it for free, but judging from the reviews and from talking to a couple other people, I think you'll enjoy this one.

Rating:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09