David Bowers’s fond retooling of ‘Astro Boy’, the seminal boy-bot creation of late Manga godhead Osamu Tezuka, is about as innocuous as family toons get. Set in the floating future world of Metro City, it’s the story of a young boy (Freddie Highmore) accidentally vaporised in an industrial accident, only to be rebuilt as a miniature robot gunship by his scientist father (Nicolas Cage). Donald Sutherland lends his voice to ultra-right-wing demagogue President Stone, who lusts for state-of-the-art firepower while spouting militarist buzzwords and allowing the audience to ally with the now-shunned Astro Boy and his new cadre of plucky outcasts. While far from an unmitigated disaster, Bowers’s play-it-straight attitude towards the material combined with the crisp, if unspectacular, animation doesn’t allow ‘Astro Boy’ a moment to bob its head above the ever-swelling digimation pack. Though it may pass muster with the very wee ones.
Friday February 5 2010