There’s one thing this film does spectacularly well – show how hard it is to make a decent animated film. I salute you, Pixar Animation Studios.
In this post Up/Incredibles/Toy Story world if you want to make a memorable animated film you have to come up with something that is as close to the quality writing and animation alchemy that Pixar have achieved.
I am not a particular fan of any form of Astro Boy. I know of it, I respect it but I don’t particularly want to watch it. There are just so many other things I want to watch. Same thing with this film really. It exists, I know of it, I respect it but I wanted to watch Ponyo. Unfortunately, Ponyo was on at an awkward time.
Anyway I went to see Astro Boy as an alternative, ready to be underwhelmed… and I was left indifferent.
It has none of the writing, humour or emotion of Pixar, it is a simple familiar story fairly well told. The animation is better than a lot of recent animation (Space Chimps, Fly Me to the Moon, Hoodwinked) and it does enough to entertain the kids.
It is solid but never surprises and that encouraged my overall feeling of indifference. I suppose I’m not the target audience. What I liked was the voice acting. Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell and Nicolas Cage are fine, but Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane and Matt Lucas steal the show. One odd choice was Bill Nighy in restrained, worthy mode as opposed to the familiar louche tone… it felt odd.
There are some funny lines and the film rattles along at a fair pace with broad-brush stroke characters but that’s about it. This film is fine. Ponyo is out, take your younger family members to see that.