Rodney Copperbottom has only one ambition in life—to move to Robot City and join Bigweld Industries, home of the most famous inventors, including Mr. Bigweld himself. Rodney already has one invention under his belt (the Wonderbot, a little flying gizmo that’s part pet, part errand boy, part comic foil) and he's itching to do more.
Upon arriving at the big city, though, Rodney learns a rough lesson: Not everyone is as interested in clever inventors as he. Worse, it seems Bigweld has sold out, and the company is now run by the mercenary Phineas T. Ratchet in conjunction with his evil, power-hungry mother, Madame Gasket.
Ratchet and Gasket decide that there’s not much money to be made in Bigweld’s previous line of business, providing spare parts for older robots, but plenty of money in upgrades. (Think of a mechanical version of very expensive plastic surgery.) The company’s motto is changed from “You can shine no matter what you’re made of” to “Why be you when you can be new?” But without a constant supply of spare parts, many of the older, working-class ‘bots—“outmodes,” as they’re called—are doomed to Gasket’s Chop Shop, a Danté-esque netherworld where they’ll be ripped to pieces and smelted.
In the meantime, Rodney falls in with a motley crew of robotic misfits called the Rusties, including Fender and his kid sister, Piper. Using his gift for fixing just about anything, Rodney starts a thriving business keeping outmodes in bolts and oil. This, naturally, sets him on a collision course with Ratchet and Gasket’s nefarious plans.
Thus, Robots pits the resourcefulness of Rodney and the Rusties against the dastardly determination of Ratchet and his minions in a hyperkinetic comic romp that will have you wondering why they don't install seatbelts in theaters.
Rodney is a good-hearted everybot. He loves his parents, and they love and respect him enough to encourage him to pursue his dream of becoming a famous inventor, even if it means having to move away from home to the big city. In fact, Rodney’s dad, Herb, gave up his dream of becoming a musician and took a blue-collar job just to support Rodney’s dream. (By the end of the film, Rodney is able to make his dad’s dream come true, too.)
Rodney doesn’t have a pretentious, um, bolt in his body and accepts everyone for who they are, even cheerfully putting up with the extremely annoying Fender. The Rusties are a perfect complement. Sure, they may be dented and corroded working-class ‘bots, and Crank Casey might be a bit morose at times (kind of a oxidized Eeyore, if you will), but they always do the right thing, even to the point of putting themselves in danger to defend other outmodes.
Cappy, Ratchet’s personal assistant, comes to see the evil of her boss’s plan and puts her life on the line to help Rodney and the Rusties. Bigweld is at first happy to live out his retirement on frivolous pursuits, but Rodney is able to convince him to take back and restore Bigweld Industries. Aunt Fanny lives by the motto “See a need, fill a need.” She lives to serve others and encourages Rodney and the Rusties to “Follow your dream.”
A few oblique double-entendres will likely go over the heads of the youngest viewers. “Having a baby” involves buying a kit in a box, and Mrs. Copperbottom says, “Making the baby’s the fun part.” We later see her groaning and grimacing as she goes into “labor,” and the camera pans down to show her pulling Rodney out of the box. Upon completing Rodney, she and Herb notice a leftover part on the floor. Examining it, Herb says, “Oh, we did want a boy, right?” He then attaches the missing “part” to baby Rodney with a mallet (offscreen) in a scene reminiscent of a bris where a baby boy is circumcised.
Bigweld says he wants to find “a babe with a big keister.” At the push of a button, his limo converts into a boudoir, complete with Barry White music, disco ball and rotating bed.
Some of the female ‘bots, particularly the upgrades, are quite busty. A robot’s “pants” fall down, and a female ‘bot faints at the sight. Rodney asks Fender, “When’s the last time you got oiled?” Apparently misunderstanding the question, Fender replies in an embarrassed voice, “I can’t answer that around my kid sister.” When Rodney asks a group of robots, “Who wants to get fixed?” a robot dog cringes and covers his privates.
There are two instances of “cross-dressing.” Rodney “grows up” by getting hand-me-down parts from his older cousins, and for his high school yearbook photo he is stuck wearing a pink female torso complete with breasts. (He looks quite embarrassed.) Fender, who’s always losing parts, accidentally winds up with female legs and a skirt. (He plays it for all it’s worth, vamping à la Britney Spears at one point.)
The big fight scene between the Rusties and Ratchet’s rowdies comes across like a (much milder, mechanical) Braveheart battle: armies clash, parts fly, robots get bashed, dented and knocked over. The camera focuses on one area of the fight that is a takeoff on over-the-top pro wrestling matches, including a slo-mo leap off the turnbuckle to crush a prone adversary.
The closing battle also features a harrowing sequence in which Rodney and some of the Rusties dangle perilously close to the giant furnace in the Chop Shop; this scene is likely to be too intense for very young viewers. Later, Madame Gasket plunges to her doom in the furnace, and flames belch forth.
Crude or Profane Language
A down-and-out ‘bot begs on a street corner wearing a sign that says, “Got screwed.” Euphemisms and slang such as "heck,” “booty,” "butt-whuppin'" and “artsy-fartsy” are used.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Herb hands out mechanical cigars when he learns he’s going to have a baby. A company publicity ball features ‘bots holding champagne glasses. And a female ‘bot leans against a cash bar.
Other Negative Elements
An extended sequence features a raft of flatulence jokes, complete with sound effects. Other mild potty humor includes a robot with “diarrhea” (he leaks oil). A robot dog begins to hike his leg near a fire hydrant, but the hydrant, also a robot, warns him away. A frightened 'bot “wets” his pants (we see tiny nuts and bolts leak out). Rodney dons a disguise and lies to get into the corporate ball.
Brought to you by the same crew that made Ice Age, Robots builds in a few sly sexual innuendoes and occasional potty humor. (And the climactic battle is dizzying and intense.) But it's set in a visually stunning, richly imaginative world where the virtues of loyalty, courage and perseverance get strong play. The good guys are good, here. And the bad guys are bad. It contains bucketfuls of positive messages about accepting people despite their differences, helping the downtrodden, standing up to bullies and doing the right thing despite inconvenience and even danger.