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Film: Astro Boy * * *

Kids will love it but adults will find it all too familiar, says Brenda McCormick

Boasting some big names (or rather voices), Astro Boy is a sci-fi adventure based on the Japanese Manga series of the same name. The action takes place in futuristic Metro City, a metropolis floating above Earth where robots work for the humans. When a brilliant scientist, Dr Tenma (Cage), loses his son Toby (Highmore) in an accident he creates a robot version of him, which has all of Toby's memories.

Powered by positive 'blue' energy, as opposed to the bad 'red' energy (boo) 'Toby', who thinks he's really Toby, soon discovers he's not like ordinary boys. He has X-ray vision, can move at amazing speeds and he can fly, too. But none of this is any comfort when Tenma, realising his creation will never replace his dead son, rejects him.

As this is all going on, Donald Sutherland's nefarious President Stone has the great idea of using a giant hi-tech robot to start a war and ensure his re-election. He needs Toby's life force, the blue energy, to carry out his plan so when a heartbroken Toby flies away from home, he heads into a whole world of trouble.

After a narrow escape, he finds himself down on Earth, which is now a graveyard of discarded robots. There he meets a team of orphaned kids and, now called Astro, he passes himself off as human. Finally happy, Astro thinks he's found where he belongs but, of course, things aren't that simple for this robot Pinocchio boy.

The biggest problem with Astro Boy is that it all seems so familiar; the idyllic world floating above an Earth that's now a giant skip is straight out of Wall.E (which, by the way, presented its eco message with much more charm), servant-bot Orrin (Levy) is channelling Star Wars' C3PO and the huge bucket-headed robot reminded me of The Iron Giant... well, you get the idea.

It does look good though; the animation has a shiny, retro feel and, while it's not very original, it's fast-paced and visually exciting in places.

In other words, while adults might wish for something a bit more inventive (and a lighter touch on the political message) kids will probably love it. HHHII


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