The word cute can be thrown around a lot when it comes to movies. The same could be said about lightweight. But are either of these things really a bad thing? When there are always complaints that too many movies are rated R or the opposite – lots of films undeservedly rated R – there’s plenty of room for films that fit into these categories. “Fluff” is just one more word to throw on the pile but when a film is as entertaining as Robot and Frank (in the Premieres category at the Sundance Film Festival), I’m going to complain about it even less.
In Cold Spring, New York, a “robbery” is in place. It’s late at night and it appears that a burglar is out on a snatch and grab. Turns out it’s really just old Frank (Frank Langella) reliving the dream. Back in the old days he used to go on grand heists where now he’s stuck at home where his only escape is to the local library. There he gets to visit with Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) and discuss how the library is prepping for a major makeover and about to be turned into a social meeting place.
Frank’s son Hunter (James Marsden) returns for his weekly visit which he has started to feel like is a waste of a ten hour round trip drive to see his old man. This is why Hunter has decided to invest in a caretaker for Frank – a robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). It washes dishes, makes meals, and starts growing a garden in the backyard, and has no off switch. At first Frank is completely annoyed by Robot who won’t let him eat whatever he wants insisting that he must eat better to gain the proper nourishment. He also sets up a sleep schedule to keep him from getting disoriented.
It’s not too long before Frank figures out that Robot is capable of learning new skills and comes with its own confidentiality agreement. Now Frank is teaching Robot how to pick locks and casing the library before moving on to a bigger target: Jake (Jeremy Strong), the man responsible for the antiquing of his beloved library. Jake runs a tight schedule with his wife and seems to leave lots of valuable jewelry home alone on a daily basis. Now Frank wants to relive the past by first confiscating an old copy of Don Quixote he wants to gift to Jennifer. It’s when his daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) shows up that everything may come to an end and Frank could risk either returning to prison or holed up in a retirement home.
It’s no surprise that Sony Worldwide and Samuel Goldwyn Films have partnered to distribute Robot and Frank, director Jake Schreier’s debut. With a screenplay set in the near future (2025 as writer Christopher D. Ford deadpanned during the film’s Q&A), they’ve infused the film with lots of humor and heart and keep the sci-fi to a minimum. The film is really about Frank himself and his adventure never gets overtaken by the Minority Report/A.I. angle. Frank Langella gives a hilarious performance made even funnier when he finally lets loose his two f-bombs which should keep the film at a PG-13 level, thankfully. Originally it is said that Frank was a much more foul mouthed character but as it stands, Robot and Frank is definitely one to keep an eye out for once a release date is arranged.
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