Movie Review: Robot and Frank (2012)

Posted: November 24, 2013 in Comedy
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Frank (Frank Langella) is an elderly man living alone in upstate New York in the not-too-distant future.  Frank suffers from memory loss. His son Hunter (James Marsden) doesn’t want to travel so far to come see him, so he buys Frank a robot. (Voice Peter Sarsgaard)  The robot cooks healthy food, cleans the house and implores Frank to exercise.  Frank doesn’t like the idea of being nagged by a robot, and begs his daughter, Madison (Liv Tyler) to ask Hunter to get rid of the robot.  Then Frank realizes that the robot is good at picking locks, and Frank suddenly has an itch to get back into his old profession, Frank used to be a jewel thief.  The robot seems to think that planning a robbery is good for Frank’s mental acuity, and so Frank plans to steal the last printed copy of Don Quixote from the library to impress a pretty librarian named Jennifer, (Susan Sarandon) a caper which Frank and the robot pull off effortlessly.

The library book theft is just the beginning.  At a library fundraiser, he notices the ostentatious jewelry worn by the fundraiser’s wife, and starts to plan his next job with his robot, breaking into the fundraiser’s house, and stealing his wife’s jewelry.  Just as Frank plans his next robbery, his human rights activist daughter comes back to live with him, and turns off the robot.  What happens to Frank’s plans to steal the jewelry?

This is a light, breezy, whimsical movie about what would happen if a robot became a healthcare aid in the near future.  Sometimes, writers use science fiction themed movies to address deeper societal issues, but not this movie.  This movie studiously avoids the issues it raises. I was shocked by the lack of ethics in this movie, the robot is not programmed to tell right from wrong, Frank’s son has no ethical qualms about leaving his father with a robot, and Frank’s daughter treats his history of robberies with a wink and a nod.  It steers clear of the very serious topic of elder care, and an adult child’s responsibility to an aging parent, and that is a gaping flaw in this movie.

The acting is great. Frank  Langella is excellent as an aging man who is losing some of his faculties, but who is determined to prove that he can outmaneuver an increasingly mechanized society, Langella plays the role with charm and grace It’s nice to see Susan Sarandon in a love interest role, there’s a bit of a twist to Sarandon’s role which the viewer might miss if he or she blinks.  James Marsden plays against type, as a non-caring adult son, and Liv Tyler is plausible as Frank’s fee-spirited daughter.  Peter Sarsgaard does a serviceable robot voice.  Robot and Frank is an pleasant and engaging film, just don’t expect any deep insights,

Robot and Frank.  Frankly, a bit disappointing.

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