The premise for Robots
sounds more like a dystopian nightmare than a premise for a family comedy. The central concept is predicated on, at best, an outstanding health care failure and at worst state-sponsored euthanasia. The main locale is lorded over by a massive corporation with power over life and death, who target our protagonist, the city's only doctor, when he starts saving the sick people the aforementioned corporation would far prefer either keel over or get slaughtered. That the characters are machines is supposed to mitigate the awfulness of all this, but seeing as they're indistinguishable from (and actively standing in for) mankind it doesn't quite come off. It's hard not to wonder why anyone thought this was a good idea for a comedy—or, rather, a comedy as lighthearted and screwball as this one.
The concept might work as a Black Comedy
, but instead the movie goes for easy material—pop-culture gags, fart jokes, accents. I'd call it tonal dissonance if the film ever treated its plot with the weight the material seems to require, but no one seems especially concerned about the life and death situation they're in. Part of this is probably down to the fact that the only characters that are ever really in mortal peril are voiced by Robin Williams and Mel Brooks, who are very very good at things that are not this.
The plot doesn't quite hold together either—often, things just seem to kind of happen. Characters' motivations and moods turn like mad, turning towards and away from the cause of saving the outmodes seemingly on a whim just so that the film can briefly attempt drama. None of those moments feel earned, because they're so few and far between that the parts that contain them and the comedic scenes seem to be at a complete disconnect. Moreover, they're hokey and cliché—the fate of an entire city crests on whether our bland protagonist follows his dreams. Said dreams are conveniently reduced to catchphrases, and largely concern transcending class roots and helping people. (The class-warfare aspect of the film is yet another great concept woefully underplayed.)
It seems like a wasted opertunity, really, because the design of the film is wonderful and the concept is, in theory, workable. Unfortunately, no matter what the film might think, one good idea doesn't always mean the end product will hold together.