Writer: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang Yang
Overall: 3.5 Out of 5
Cast: 4.0 Out of 5
Plot: 2.0 Out of 5
Effects: 2.5 Out of 5
Cinematography: 3.0 Out of 5
Watch this if you liked: “Wall-E”, “The Iron Giant”, “Mannequin”
Let's not have a review meant for those who do follow Tezuka Osamu's 1952 manga or its derivatives. Let's have a review meant for anyone who buys a ticket to a cartoon movie in which a boy shoots bullets from his butt.
On that level, "Astro Boy" (also available in Cantonese in some territories, with Nic Cage's part voiced by Aaron Kwok) is a moderately successful project that is by most counts, highly enjoyable. Although it borrows from various animated movies of late (notably the robot junk dystopia in "Wall-E" and the artwork in "The Iron Giant"), this Hollywood-style "Astro Boy" manages to keep it simple and short, going for time-tested emotional hooks and easy-flowing pacing. While the Imagi Animation artwork won't dazzle like Disney's, the movie amply makes up for it by going for a solid, if ordinary, story about how bringing back something to life against the order of nature may have its drawbacks. We're not looking at "Pet Sematary" or "Igor" here. We're looking at the seasonal, more-human-than-human arc that leans more towards the romanticism in "Electric Dreams" (computer), "Pinocchio" (doll) and "Mannequin" (doll).
In terms of casting, Nicolas Cage's outrageously soulful persona emanates well when voicing the regretful father Dr. Tenma, a brilliant scientist who loses his son Toby and decides to bring him back to life as a cyborg. As Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore, Charlie in "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory"), the kid struggles to find his place in the world due to his uncomfortably identity. Bill Nighy ("Love Actually") voices a wise professor and Nathan Lane (Timon in "The Lion King" is a fatherly inventor included for other supporting roles. They even got Samuel L Jackson to lend his voice for a giant robot named Zog.
In sum, director David Bowers and screenwriter Timothy Harris have given this Japanese product a very marketable treatment. Although "Astro Boy" follows the same pattern as "Dragonball Evolution" and "Speed Racer" (other American-produced films based on Japanese sources which failed in their land of origin but sold well in China), it isn't a bad watch at all considering the number of animated features out there who are trying so hard to rival Disney. Pin this one down as a memorable effort towards that cause.
Cinema Online, 17 November 2009