Mary Arline (queen_of_kithia) wrote,
Mary Arline


Speaking of David Lindsay-Abaire, recently I was watching the movie Robots of which he was one of the screenwriters, which I only discovered as I was watching the opening credits, and what a pleasant surprise it was. Because I know what kind of writer he is, having seen Fuddy Meers from the inside out and Kimberly Akimbo from the outside in, I settled down to what I anticipated to be an evening of exceptional entertainment.

Alas, I was disappointed. Not to say that it wasn't amusing; it was, but it wasn't the brand of amusement that I've come to expect from David Lindsay-Abaire (as it was, the opening-credit sequence was the most amusing part of the whole movie). There are, I think, several reasons for this. One is that he wasn't the sole screenwriter. Another is that part of the appeal of his plays is that they are populated with entirely wacky yet believable characters, but these characters inhabit the same world we do, which is part of the reason that they seemed so strange. Whereas Robots is set in an entirely different, fanciful world and so I think it's easier to just accept things as they come. Also, Robots is a kids' movie, and Mr. Lindsay-Abaire's best humor tends to be not suitable for children.

But I think the main reason that Robots was not the caliber of entertainment that I've come to expect from David Lindsay-Abaire's writing is revealed in the director/art director commentary. They reveal that the movie started as a visual concept (i.e. "wouldn't it be fun to make an animated movie about robots?") and the story came later. I lost track of how many times during the commentary they said, "Now, this sequence has nothing to do with the story, but it goes back to the whole visual concept and we thought it would be fun to animate."

Okay, I'm willing to accept that one of the primary reasons to do an animated movie as opposed to a live-action movie is so that you can do stuff that you wouldn't be able to do in a live-action movie. But I don't think that your visual concepts should take away from your story; rather, they should serve the story. As far as I'm concerned, the story is tantamount; if you're not in it to tell a story, you might as well just throw a bunch of random images that look cool up on the screen.

In contrast, I'm reminded of The Incredibles, which is a movie that probably wouldn't have worked as well as a live-action piece because it would have been, if not impossible, very very difficult to do the things that they do in a live-action movie. And yet, every crazy thing that they do serves the story in some way. Elastigirl doesn't just bend and contort, stretch and flatten because it looks cool--it does look cool, but she always has a reason to do it. And because every cool-looking thing that they do is motivated by a plot point it makes it all the more entertaining because things are happening for a reason and the plot is being advanced.

I don't mean to come down too harshly on Robots. It did have cool animation, and it did have a semi-discernible plot line, and it did have character development and sympathetic characters, and had my expectations not been heightened by the presence of Mr. Lindsay-Abaire's name in the credits I probably would not have been so disappointed. But I am disappointed, because I have at least a notion of what it could have been.
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