Saturday, May 19, 2012

Real Steel

Rated PG-13 for some violence, intense action and brief language
Starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly and Dakota Goyo
Running time: 127 minutes

I’m a huge Hugh Jackman fan, so I had high expectations for this film especially after the previous reviews on how great it was.  I couldn’t wait to see what the hype was all about, and if Hugh was flexing his muscles a lot in the movie…even better!  I hate to say it, but I was disappointed. 

Now, I really dislike giving a bad review.  I’m pretty easy to please, so I can generally find a happy spot in most books and movies.  There were some happy spots in Real Steel for me, sure.  The computer-generated robots and animatronics were quite impressive, earning a nomination in this year’s Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects.  The music was pretty darn fantastic too…if you like rock, which I do.

Our story starts out with Charlie (Hugh Jackman), a washed-up pugilist-turned-robot boxer-slash-gambler, just trying to make a living out on the boxing circuit.  The year is 2020 and these high-tech robots have replaced humans in this dangerous sport. 

His son, Max (Dakota Goyo), is dumped on his doorstep and Charlie is suddenly forced into parenthood.  It becomes obvious that he is severely lacking in parenting skills.  Heck, Charlie can barely take care of himself!  But soon, they are bonding over robots since Max is conveniently a boxing and video game enthusiast. 

Max acquires a bot named Atom that was a sparring robot, and now he’s the one who is betting big and over-confident that Atom will win, but this time you believe it.  With Charlie, you didn’t.

As I was watching the music montage scene of Max and Atom becoming acquainted, I thought what 11 year-old boy wouldn’t want a “real” life-size toy robot to play with except this toy can pick up Dumpsters. 

Evangeline Lilly plays Bailey, an ex-girlfriend who helps Charlie build his robots, and nudges him to step up and be a father to Max but it’s so obvious that Charlie has some growing up to do on his own.

Atom’s success takes them to the top with a few run-ins with some antagonists along the way, of course.  Charlie’s shining moment comes when he’s ultimately fighting in the championship because Atom malfunctions and shadows Charlie’s boxing moves. But, I didn’t feel it, the teary-feel-good glory moment that I was supposed to as we watch Charlie’s long-awaited time in the spotlight despite the inspirational music and happy crying from Bailey and Max.

There is some fine acting in this film.  The boy who plays Max is first rate, and we know Evangeline Lilly and Hugh Jackman are masters in their own realm (television and stage).  There’s violence, obviously, and one cuss word of the sh- - variety.  I think older boys (husbands, too) would enjoy this movie for its high-tech special effects, but there is a gritty undertone to it when Charlie’s on the illegal circuit and all the seedy gambling is going on.

I guess ultimately this story was about father-son love and the movie hits that happy spot satisfactorily. But if there’s a Real Steel 2 it wouldn’t hurt for Charlie to have a little more character growth, and it’d be nice if he took his shirt off too.

Reviewed by Beth Balberchak

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