Here’s the premise. Set in the near future, Hugh Jackman is a loser robot boxer working fairs and rodeos with a robot destined for the scrap heap.
More con than kind, Jackman’s Charlie ends up signing the parental rights of his son, Max, over to the boy’s mother’s rich sister to finance his endeavors. He’s estranged from the boy anyway and doesn’t know him at all.
The hitch. To get the money, he has to watch his son for the summer. You can take the plot from there. The boy takes to robot boxing like the proverbial duck to water. Bonding and boxing follow.
I had a Rock’em Sock’em robots game as a kid. When I caught the trailer of Real Steel it was the first thing that entered my mind. The game was a blast, but a movie about boxing robots?
Grabbing — or should I say stealing? — the best of the plot of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, the film gives fighting robots the popularity, hype and money akin to today’s no-holds barred fighting and professional wrestling.
By mid-movie, I changed my mind about this being a good idea. Real Stealisn’t just an effects-laden, shallow, biff-bap-boff, grind-it-out, Transformers rip-off action flick. While not much is original in Jack Gatins' (Hard Ball) screenplay, the story of the lovable loser getting redemption is hard not to like.
Jackman’s performance is decent. He’s a competent, believable actor supported by Lost's lovely Evangeline Lilly, some great special effects and pretty good storytelling from director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum).
What really makes Real Steel real is the superb work of newcomer Dakota Goyo as Max. His work makes the father-son relationship work, the relationship with the cast-off robot they use, work and makes the movie work.
Rocky Sock’em Robots, anyone? It works for me.
A post script. First, it was Transformers and its sequels. Now we have Reel Steel and a sequel is a no-brainer. I found a news story that says Mattel is making a Rock’em Sock’em Robot movie. We’re suddenly quite transformed — no pun intended — by them.
The challenge here is to keep the concept from getting boring. And it kind of already is. However, I will say fighting robots beats the hell out of vegan vampires any day.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG for mature themes. It opens Friday, Oct. 7 at the Carmike 12, at the Fairchild Cinemas 12 — with one screen in English and another in Spanish — and at Grand Cinemas Walla Walla
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.