Robot Overlords: Tween babysitting fodder with no in-jokes for the adults
Hey, you guys! This one's a 1980s' truffle shuffle just for the kids
Film Review Robot Overlords is an old-school kids’ movie, with none of the surreptitious nods to the dragged along adult audiences that we’ve become accustomed to, just friendly, under-13s fun.
When a race of giant alien robots come to Earth, the war (represented by sound effects behind a blank screen for the youngsters) lasts just 11 days, leaving the planet under the dominion of the eponymous robot overlords.
The frankly peculiar wishes of our new lords and masters, according to them, are that we stay indoors at all times until the occupation comes to a supposedly peaceable end whenever the robots are finished “studying” the human race.
These wishes are conveyed by a terrifying animatronic avatar known as the Mediator, fashioned by the robots to soothe humankind by looking like a gruesomely misjudged cross between a midget and a boy-band member.
The day-to-day running of the Earth, delivering food, and so on, is taken care of by a group of collaborators, led by Sir Ben Kingsley in greasy villain form that doesn’t tax his acting muscles too much as Robin Smythe.
With all the grown-ups either collaborating or doing their best to get by, it’s left to a quartet of young’uns in a small British seaside town to save the day. Connor (Milo Parker) is the ten-year-old from across the street whose father tests the countdown to vaporisation issued by robots as soon as you rather foolishly step outside.
The newly orphaned boy is taken in by Kate, the dishy Gillian Anderson, who’s keeping her ragtag family together by indulging the odious and lascivious eye of Mr Smythe, and her teenage son Sean (Callan McAuliffe), who’s determined to discover the fate of his MIA dad.
The quartet is rounded out by fellow teens Alexandra (Ella Hunt), the obligatory puppy love interest, and her brother Nathan (James Tarpey), the equally obligatory mouthy one with the heart of gold.
Attempting to fix their PlayStation, the four kids (they should really have had a dog as well) inadvertently discover that a mild-to-serious electric shock from a car battery knocks out the implants that allow the robots to keep track of them, letting them loose on the world to steal sweets and track down Sean’s dad and maybe, just maybe, save the world.
This ain't the dystopia of The Hunger Games, or the Divergent sci-fi series, or any of the many other serious teen worlds. Robot Overlords is a chirpy, chipper, British adventure, where the kids wisecrack and luck their way through one thing after another until the inevitable showdown – a sort of Goonies meets The War of the Worlds set-up.
This would be unbearably twee if the four kids didn’t pull it off so well. Loud-mouth Nathan runs close to being annoying at times, but little Connor is a sweet, funny kid and Sean keeps the dramatics to a minimum.
That said, this is very definitely a kids’ film, not something you’re likely to actually want to sit down and watch unless you have a fairly unsophisticated tween to entertain. ®
Director Jon Wright
Cast Gillian Anderson, Ella Hunt, Ben Kingsley, Callum McAuliffe, Milo Parker, James Tarpey
Release date 27 March (UK)
More info Studio website