Saturday, April 24, 2010

DVDebut: ASTRO BOY -- little-seen, utterly charming -- speaks of parenting and of being human

Kids'll love it, and their parents might be surprised at how enjoyable they find it, too -- given that ASTRO BOY harks back to a simpler time of storytelling for children without excessive double-entendres and adult references. I'm sure the movie cost plenty to make but with nowhere near the price-tag of the major studio stuff -- much of which is spent on marketing, in any case.

David Bowers' sweet, swift and economically-told tale (84 minutes plus end credits) of the death and re-birth of a scientist's son who gets into the wrong place at the wrong time is full of religious themes, as well as some from Blade Runner (what it means to be "human") and politics (smarmy leaders with fascist tendencies who guide their society astray). Bowers (shown at right, who also gave us Flushed Away) directed and co-wrote (with Timothy Harris) the screenplay, which offers a wide array of characters, most of them fun and meaningful.  These are voiced by a pro crew that includes Nathan Lane, Freddie Highmore, Eugene Levy, Donald Sutherland, Samuel L. Jackson and especially Bill Nighy -- whose rich, dulcet tones, coupled to a deep understanding of meaning, can move you to tears (he also doubles as the voice of one of the funnier robots).

The film moves quickly from scene to scene, event to event, resting just long enough on particulars to bring to life its most important themes: parenting, love, trust and friendship.  And while it has its quota of slam-bam violence, since this is directed against a major bad-guy robot and is never bloody or nasty (it's all in self-defense), there is little here to corrupt our children.  I'm going to recommend it to my grand-kids, in fact.

The colors are bright and eye-popping and the animation is of the old school: It looks like animation, rather that some of the recent stuff that keeps pretending to be "real."  You want real?  Make a live-action movie.
Astro Boy is available now on DVD.

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