Robot & Frank is a sweet, odd, upbeat little cyber-buddy comedy set in an all-too-near future
Directors: Jake Schreier MPAA Rating: PG-13 Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Robot & Frank is a sweet, odd, upbeat little cyber-buddy comedy set in an all-too-near future when libraries are toddling into oblivion, synthesizers have replaced musical instruments and the aging get assisted by peppy, talkative little robots programmed to do their chores and provide companionship.
The long-neglected successful son (James Marsden) of crusty former cat burglar Frank (Frank Langella) realizes that his father is in denial about his ever-worsening dementia. So, against the wishes of his parent and his globetrotting sister (Liv Tyler), he buys him the latest model bot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) rather than institutionalize him. Predictably, the human-droid relationship is an oil-and-water, Odd Couple situation until it dawns on Frank that his little friend would make the perfect partner for a series of robberies — with a little training from a past master thief, that is. What ensues involves Frank in a brief, melancholy return to his former glory days, a flirtation with the sensual local librarian (Susan Sarandon), scuffles with the law, a heart-tugging rapprochement between Frank and his family, and, most of all, a charming friendship with the nameless mechanical robot who keeps expressing flashes of empathy and understanding.
This wry, sentimental character study from first-time director Jake Schreier and screenwriter Christopher Ford draws very nice work from Sarsgaard, Marsden and Sarandon. But the film's juice and gravitas come from the indispensable Langella, who beautifully portrays a once vital, raging hell-raiser slipping into befuddlement. A master thespian with a very light touch, Langella keeps us watching with his formidable charm, stealth and flashes of rage. The man is just fantastic.