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The Independent Critic

Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Donald Sutherland, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nighy
David Bowers
David Bowers, Timothy Hyde Harris
Rated PG
94 Mins.
Summit Entertainment

 "Astro Boy" Review 
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Two things are likely to happen for you after viewing "Astro Boy," a star-laden animated feature from the folks at Summit Entertainment.

First, you will find yourself flashing back to this summer's "Terra," an insightful and thought-provoking yet infinitely boring full-length feature that got so bogged down in story that it had virtually no chance of ever attracting a younger audience.

Secondly, you will leave the movie theater absolutely craving a Frisch's Big Boy.

I promise.

Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Big Boy, Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) is the manufactured product of his scientist father (Nicolas Cage), who creates Astro Boy following the tragic death of his own son. Residing on Metro City, the land's leader, President Stone (Donald Sutherland), soon demands Astro Boy's Blue Energy, a sort of positive energy that President Stone wants to use for his "peacemaking" activities alongside the dirty, more dastardly Red Energy. The newly manufactured Astro Boy quickly discovers that he possesses superpowers and escapes down to planet Earth, a land now in shambles (of course!) where he joins the likes of Hamegg (Nathan Lane), an appropriately hammy character who seems right out of "Oliver!"

While "Terra" drowned in its own headiness, "Astro Boy" comes closer to achieving a positive result by inter-mixing quite a few action scenes guaranteed to be far more pleasing to the kiddoes. Screenwriters David Bowers and Timothy Hyde Harris inter-mix humor gently throughout the proceedings, a humor likely advanced enough to give chuckles to accompanying parents while being fundamental enough for the film's younger viewers.

"Astro Boy" brings with it a natural, built-in audience given the film's longstanding popularity in Japanese manga and director David Bowers' style nicely blends elements of the manga style into a fairly mainstream American production.

Another nice touch, indeed a stroke of simplicity, is that "Astro Boy" is filmed solely in 2-D. Rather than feeling inferior, however, I'd dare say that the difference won't even be noticed by audiences.

While "Astro Boy" never quite achieves the entertainment value or wit of Bowers' previous film, "Flushed Away," it is elevated considerably by the ensemble cast's strong vocal work and its overall heart and soul (though the obviousness of the desired sequel is a bit distracting).

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic