Christopher D. Ford

Robot and Frank

Editor’s note: With Robot and Frank hitting limited release this week, here is a re-run of our review from Sundance, originally published on January 22, 2012. If Jake Schreier‘s Robot and Frank is too believed, the near future is very similar to the present – just with more hipsters enamored of things they don’t understand and more robots consigned to help with everyday tasks. Both come, oddly enough, to a head in Schreier’s feature debut about a man, his robot, and the things that bond them (including a distaste for said hipsters). The film is a wily mix of genres - Robot and Frank is a buddy comedy, a fish out of water story, a heist film, and a drama about aging in its many forms – and it mostly delivers on its immense promise when it works within the bounds of dry and clever comedy. But when the film allows itself to slack, it slumps almost irrevocably, and it never quite recovers from an unsatisfying and overemotional middle.

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Technology is meant to make our lives easier – from the brain-crushing minutiae of everyday work to world-changing scientific advancements, the possibilities of technology are endless. And, in Jake Schreier‘s Robot and Frank, those possibilities even include criminal activities. In the director’s first feature, Schreier imagines (thanks to Christopher D. Ford‘s original screenplay) a world where technology has advanced to the point that most homes now have their very own helper robot. The new robot tech is gradually taking over supposedly mindless jobs – inside and outside the home – including serving as nifty companions to the elderly. Salty old Frank (Frank Langella) isn’t too sold on the idea of robots (to put it mildly), so he’s quite put out when his kids (James Marsden and Liv Tyler) provide him with his own robo-helper. While Frank initially balks at the new addition to his home, the pair eventually form a bit of a friendship – which former jewel thief Frank then totally exploits in order to get back in the gem-heisting game. What a nice old man! Check out Langella robbing his neighbors with his robot pal in the first trailer for Robot and Frank after the break.

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