Astro Boy Review
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In the futuristic floating paradise known as Metro City, humans can relax while robots do all the work, thanks to Dr. Tenma (voice by Nicolas Cage), a scientific genius who continues to make brilliant scientific advancements. His super-smart son, Toby (Freddie Highmore), is following in Dr. Tenma’s footsteps, too—until tragedy strikes. During a presentation to the war-mongering President Stone (Donald Sutherland), who’s desperate for re-election, one of the robots goes on a rampage, and Toby is accidentally killed.

Devastated by the loss of his son, Dr. Tenma creates a robotic version of Toby—but he soon learns that a robot boy isn’t the same as a real boy, so he sadly sends him away.

Toby ends up on Earth, which is now little more than a robot junkyard. He befriends a group of orphans—though he’s careful to keep his true identity a secret—and it seems as though he’s finally found a family. But President Stone is still determined to create the ultimate war machine—and before he can go through with his plan, he needs to capture Tenma’s robot boy.

  
 
Based on the comic by famed artist Osamu Tezuka (as well as its popular 1960s cartoon spin-off), Astro Boy is a westernized work of anime, complete with shiny Hollywood animation, wacky robot sidekicks, plenty of action and laughs, and a stock plot. While the original Astro Boy cartoon series was known for tackling deeper, darker issues, this updated version, directed by Flushed Away’s David Bowers, keeps it as light as possible, generally glossing over heavier issues of war, pollution, death, and parental desertion with subtle scatological humor and giant robot battles. And, well, I’m okay with that. After all, there have been more than enough heavy kids’ movies this year, so a fluffy one like Astro Boy is actually a refreshing change of pace.

In exchange for some light entertainment, though, Astro Boy sacrifices some of its individuality. The story is a conglomeration of familiar plotlines, borrowing snippets of plot from all kinds of well-known stories—everything from Oliver Twist to WALL•E. Still, there are a few clever touches thrown in—some witty little details that only the observant viewer will catch (Hint: Pay attention to the title of Toby’s philosophy book). And those little hidden treats—along with its geeky humor—keep Astro Boy entertaining. So do the fun supporting characters (especially Trashcan the dog and the robot revolutionaries)—and the voice cast (especially Cage, who’s always amusing as the severely bipolar scientific genius).

Of course, if you’re looking for a faithful reimagining of Tezuka’s classic cartoon, you’ll most likely be disappointed. But although there’s nothing particularly super about this superhero kids’ movie, the simple action and humor make it a light and fluffy way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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