We see a lot of killer robot movies, a lot of wrestling transformer robot movies, but not very many home healthcare robot movies. To be fair, a story about an old guy and his health robot doesn’t sound that exciting, but this quirky little dramedy offers its own flair.
Set in the near future, Robot and Frank (2012) is the story of an aging jewel thief whose mental deterioration is starting to affect his daily life. Frank is divorced and his kids live too far from him to check in enough, so his son purchases a helper robot as a live-in. Frank is not fond of the idea, but his son insists on him keeping it.
In between Frank’s confused episodes, he retains his thievery acumen. A chance happening at a soap store reveals something strange about Robot, and Frank recognizes a unique opportunity.
He discovers that Robot, with all his deep robot knowledge, somehow was not programmed to fully comprehend immorality? So basically, this film is confirming my biggest fear about AI – that we humans are not smart enough to create something more intelligent than us and TRULY understand what the consequences could be. Hashtag Terminator. Hashtag District 9. Hashtag Minority Report. Hashtag I, Robot. Pick up on the clues, people!!
Frank uses this opening to start training Robot in the art of thievery. From picking locks to memorizing floor plans, Robot is ready to test his skills in no time. The pair of misfits start their first job at a library. Frank knows there’s an extremely valuable book there because he’s friends with the head librarian, Jennifer, who is played by Susan Sarandon.
Several subplots are weaved together in this film: Frank’s courtship of Jennifer, his shaky relationship with his children (played by Liv Tyler and James Marsden), his newfound friendship with Robot, and his attempt to come to terms with his changing mental state.
Peter Sarsgaard voices the AI robot, and Frank Langella plays Frank. Am I the only one who is extremely creeped out by Peter Sarsgaard? Even when he’s playing the good guy
in a movie, I just can’t trust him. He has the sneer of a serial killer and the hunched stance of a deviant. His robot voice is disturbing to my soul, but he does it well.
After a multi-million dollar heist occurs nearby, Frank becomes a prime suspect, and the race is on to get rid of the evidence. Frank burns all he can and hides the jewels, but Robot’s memory is also a liability. Even though Robot has logically explained that he has no feelings and would not be upset if his memory was erased, Frank can’t bring himself to do it. But the longer he waits, the closer the police get to finding him out. Frank is forced to reevaluate what’s important to him and make some thoughtful decisions about his future, and his relationship with Robot.
This film is charming, funny, and at times, heartbreaking. It’s not an explosive futuristic suspense thriller (which is my usual go-to), but it is endearing. It’s a quick (90 minutes), sweet, and easily digestible dramedy that will tug at your heart strings and possibly encourage you to start stockpiling your guns for the robot apocalypse…which WILL happen; trust me…