Robot and Frank (2012) (PG-13)
There have been many famous robotic figures from films over the decades. Even from back in the silent film era, artificial intelligence has been filling our screens. The most notable robotic personalities are HAL from "2001: A Space Odyssey", WALL-E, GERTY from "Moon", Sonny from "I. Robot" and perhaps the robot from "Robot and Frank" should be tacked on to the end, not because the robot itself anything original, but because of the way the characters treat the machine.
"Robot and Frank" is the debut full-length film from Jake Schreier who should be complemented for picking such a unique project to make. It comes from Christopher D. Ford, his biggest script yet. The men behind the scenes are all virtually unknowns, but the actors in front of the screen are not.
This film tells the story of Frank (Frank Langella) who is not getting any younger and suffering from some sort of memory disease—whether it is dementia or Alzheimer's or just old age, we are not told and it is not relevant to the point of the story.
It's the near future and Frank is an ex-theif whose habits are not dying. He finds himself breaking into his own house, trying to relive the glory days in the opening scene of the movie. But he doesn't know that it's his house, and when he finds out it makes him angry, frustrated, and possibly scared.
Frank's children both care for him but find it inconvenient to be with him all the time. His son, Hunter (James Marsden) has to take 10 hours out of his weekend just for traveling time to come visit his father, but he does it every week anyway. His daughter, Madison (Liv Tyler) is out of the country doing some sort of relief work.
Hunter finds that his frustration is growing with his father, who can forget pretty much anything in a matter of days. He's always getting into trouble, like visiting a small shop and shoplifting there to keep his inner thief at peace. Hunter buys him a robot to keep him company and clean up after him.
Frank rejects the idea of a nanny, because he doesn't feel that anything is wrong with him.
The way that this film treats the loss of memory is quite accurate from my own personal experiences with it.
The robot and Frank soon form a quirky relationship, Frank teaches the robot how to pick locks and they have small adventures together, many of which involve a local library and the librarian there, Jennifer (Susan Sarandon).
The renaissance of information is plowing through the town that Frank lives in and he is staying on top of it rather well; but the robot sometimes gets to him. The robot is a personality that acts as a health trainer. It makes him good meals and reminds him to take his medicine, keeps him on a schedule and forces him to take walks. Unlike many of the other robots envisioned in movies, this robot is not bound to a moral code, nor does it mince words about it.
The script has clever nuances like a scene when the robot quotes Descartes: "I think therefore I am". He says that this is how humans are, but he does not think, and therefore he is not. He knows that he is not alive, and he is fine with that. There are no pockets of emotion hanging around in the robot, yet he can bond with Frank and care for him, because that's what he's programmed for.
Also, this film is original because of how humans treat the machines. There's a certain amount of respect, but no wonderment. The fancy lights have already faded, the magic trick, revealed. Robots are just machines.
But some people don't like robots like Frank's daughter who has a form of philosophy against them.
"Robot and Frank" could have been great, but it tries too hard to be funny. If it kept itself as more of a drama, the impact could have been greater.
Still, the acting is good, the effects are fun, and the story is surprisingly touching.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones