'Robot Dreams' movie review: Pablo Berger's melodic take on urban solitude moves at a slow pace

'Robot Dreams' movie review: Pablo Berger's melodic take on urban solitude moves at a slow pace


A scene from 'Robot Dreams'

A scene from 'Robot Dreams'

Pablo Berger nominated for an Academy Award Robot Dreams It's a sweet, animated confection that tries its best to tug at our heartstrings but can't quite keep its sweetness. Based on Sarah Varon's 2007 graphic novel, this tale of loneliness and togetherness in 1980s New York City is great to look at, but ultimately so sentimental and dull that it doesn't justify its feature-length format.

The film introduces us to Doug, its lonely protagonist who lives in a cozy apartment in the East Village. His days are spent in a monotonous routine of frozen meals, solo games of Pong, and watching the bustling city around him. This dreariness is punctuated by a TV commercial for the Amica 2000: a robot friend that promises to alleviate his loneliness. Doug promptly orders one, and thus begins his brief but delightful association with the robot – a friendly machine whose design is reminiscent of a smaller, cuter version of The Iron Giant.

Robot Dreams (Silent)

Director: Pablo's Burger

Runtime: 102 minutes

Plot: In 1980s New York City, the dog collects the robot as a companion, and they become best friends

Berger's creature-filled New York is instantly reminiscent of Disney Zootopiabut with the softness of Saturday morning Cartoon Network essentials. This elaborate world-building is a feast for the eyes, yet the film's lack of dialogue – relying instead on exclamations and pop song fragments – leaves its narrative somewhat malnourished.

A scene from 'Robot Dreams'

A scene from 'Robot Dreams'

The essence of the film is the silent, soulful bond between Doug and his metal companion. Their adventures – roller-skating from Central Park to Earth, dancing to Wind & Fire's “September” and deep-diving through the beach – are charmingly animated and buoyed by Alfonso de Villalonga's spirited score. However, Berger's decision to stretch these moments into extended scenes undermines their intended charm, turning poignant vignettes into drawn-out, syrupy tableaus.

The story becomes even more complicated, or rather, rusty, when the robot becomes paralyzed on the sand during a seaside walk. The dog, helpless and heartbroken, is unable to rescue his friend for months, beginning a series of dream sequences that give the film its Asimovian title. The robot's motionless existence is punctuated by fourth-wall-breaking fantasies – such as dreaming of salvation on the Yellow Brick Road amid millions of tap-dancing sunflowers – but these imaginative interludes last much longer than necessary.

A scene from 'Robot Dreams'

A scene from 'Robot Dreams'

This slow pace at first seems like a leisurely stroll through Berger's carefully crafted world, but as the scenes progress, this lack of urgency becomes an exhausting one, making it clear that Robot Dreams It would have been better as a brisk short film. The repetition of the separate mini-dramas of the dog and the robot enhances this sense of narrative consistency.

By the time Berger brings up the reunion, the film has gone on too long to reach an emotional climax; the film's initial inertia undermines this resolution. A faster pace or a denser montage could have infused some energy into the film's middle section, but instead, we are left with a slow progression that dilutes the finale's poignancy.

Despite these speed bumps, Robot Dreams It has charm. The film's gentle exploration of loneliness and friendship springs from a deep source of genuine empathy. However, these themes seem so banal that it doesn't earn a spot among last year's best animated feature films. boy and heron And Spider-Man: Across the Spider-VerseFrankly, as an animated short, it could have made it to the Oscars, without occupying a slot that rightfully belonged to more deserving people. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem or extremely underrated Japanese anime, Blue giant,

Robot Dreams currently playing in theaters


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