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Robot & Frank


Stars: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Peter Sarsgaard (voice), Jeremy Strong, Rachael Ma (voice), Bonnie Bentley, Jeremy Sisto

Director: Jake Schreier

At its best, and for the most part, this is a real charmer. Frank (Langella) is an elderly and not-very-reformed ex-jewel thief in the near future, with a son (Marsden), who visits weekly but gets treated badly for his pains, and a daughter (Tyler), who travels the world helping poor countries.

Suffering from advancing Alzheimer's, Frank is given a 'health care aid' robot by his son, which at first appals the old reprobate, whose only outings are to Harry's Eaterie, newly closed, and the local library, where he flirts with the librarian (Sarandon), who tries to find him a book he hasn't read twice before. Soon, however, thanks to the efforts of Jake (Strong), a little weasel with both eyes on making money, paperbound books will disappear.

Meanwhile, Frank gets used to the robot (voice of Sarsgaard), who hasn't a name. 'You're starting to grow on me,' he tells the little automaton (all white with a blank black face). 'Thank you, Frank,' responds his carer, 'it's time for your enema.'

When the robot helps Frank, ever the kleptomaniac, avoid arrest for shoplifting, the old codger has the germ of an idea: to return to his old occupation of cat burglar - but with a new assistant.

'Are you in?' he asks the robot. 'Only,' replies the latter, 'if you agree to eat a low sodium diet from now on.'

Their first 'job' is to steal a valuable book from the library, then concentrate on getting revenge on Jake. These interludes are delightful - especially when the robot flattens itself against a wall to evade discovery - but we could do with more of them, and more interplay between 'master' and 'servant'.

The film rather loses its way towards the end, but a couple of little twists do lead to a wry ending.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Momentum. Colour (unspecified).
89 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 04 Mar 2013