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This odd little Frank Langhella sci-fi/drama definitely deserves a high-def release.....
Sony / 89 Minutes / 2012 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: February 12, 2013
In Robot and Frank, age is a nuisance. When we meet one half of our titular pair, Frank (Frank Langhella) simply cannot fight with his kids any more about the fact that he needs some sort of assistance in his day-to-day life. He won’t go to a nursing home unless he absolutely has to, but he also grudgingly admits that being on his own is probably not the best idea in the world. His daughter (Liv Tyler) rejects her brother’s (James Marsden’s) original idea, but the movie provides a half-way option that appeases all parties, for the most part.
Marsden’s character brings dad a humanoid robot, a machine that cleans up, cooks, and takes care of things around the house. It seems outlandish at first, but Frank ends up warming to the idea as the film progresses. There’s companionship offered, the robot is without question a help around the house - and there’s an ancillary benefit to having the homemaker-cyborg around, and this provides the movie with a twist that serves it wonderfully well.
It is revealed in the movie’s first moments that Frank is a thief. Nothing exotic, mind you, but this is a guy who finds thrill in simple pickpocketing and maybe a little shoplifting here and there. In fact, Robot and Frank’s opening scenes provides a quick and easy resolution to our protagonist’s situation: he realizes he’s in a little over his head where he tries to burglarize his own home. But the robot doesn’t know any better - or at least doesn’t let on as such - and Frank utilizes his caregiver’s help to nab a copy of Don Quixote he’s had his eyes on for a while from his local library.
Robot and Frankisn’t a particularly finessed movie, and while its performances are strong across the board, its characters never breathe to life with nuanced individuality. Yet as it plays out, it feels somehow fresh and surprising. The concepts of life and death and of humanism vs. technology often come across a bit precociously, but when Robot and Frank just lets its on-screen participants interact with one another, the results are often oddly engaging. It’s a strange and often beguiling movie experience.