Premise: Estranged father and son (Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo) bond while they take a junkyard boxing robot from underdog to champ. Think Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots - the Movie.
Behind-the-Scenes: Based on the short story by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Duel). Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis are executive producers. Shawn Levy (A Night at the Museum) directs.
The Good: The robot boxing scenes live up to the hype - they're consistently flashy and exciting. The robots are impressively rendered, blending in well with the live action environments. Levy does a good job of establishing the world and setting the right tone, as the movie veers wildly back-and-forth between father-son drama and action spectacle. Hugh Jackman is an engaging screen presence and always fun to watch, even when he's playing a reckless jerk in the early parts of the film. Nice to see Lost's Kate (Evangeline Lilly) get some big screen playing time.
The Bad: There's a much better movie to be made out of this material than what we actually get. The acting is high pitched - Levy seems to have encouraged every actor to take their performance to "11." Dakota Goyo is an annoying child actor - I was often reminded of Jake Lloyd in Phantom Menace. Never a good thing. The script suffers from overfamiliarity (it's Rocky meets Transformers meets Over the Top meets The Champ meets...you get the idea), and an emotionally pat resolution.
Should You See It?: Boys aged 7 to 15 will love it. If you've got one, you should definitely take them. This is crowd-pleasing family entertainment, but it plays down to its audience. Might be too corny for anybody over 18.
Rating: *** out of 5 stars.