Fantasia 2012 Review: ROBO-G. Gee Whiz It's A Charmer!
Three employees of a home appliance company have been directed by their boss to create a robot in the three months leading up to a robotics convention. With one week to go though their creation still is not completely functional yet manages to launch itself out a window and is destroyed. At the point of desperation the three employees devise a crazy plan. They set out to find someone small enough to fit inside the shell of their robot. They hold auditions and eventually have to settle on a cantankerous 72 year old man, Suzuki.
Suzuki lives on his own, participates in Seniors community theatre. At the audition he and everyone else think they are auditioning for a role in a costume party. At the robotics convention Suzuki feeds off the attention and over embellishes his role ultimately saving the life of an over-zealous robotics enthusiast, Yoko. Suzuki is a media success and soon he and the three employees find themselves on a robotics road trip showing off this darling of the convention. All the while Yoko follows, wanting to get closer to the robot.
As is to be expected, suspicion arises when Yoko takes a closer look at some footage from that first convention. The three employees do not want to get found out but at the same time Suzuki's demands on the road trip are starting to get on their nerves. And Suzuki craves the attention that he does not get from his own daughter and grandchildren; even the other seniors at the community center think he has gone made when he claims he is the robot. Growing pressure from Yoko and a local television reporter Yayoi eager to get the scoop on their deception culminate at a final press conference.
It should come as no surprise that the latest project from Shinobu Yaguchi, the writer/director of Water Boys, Swing Girls and Happy Flight should return with another sweet and feel-good comedy. Like those films before it Robo-G is light-hearted good fun that follows pretty much the same premise. Take a crazy idea at the start of the film (Boys doing synchronized swimming or Girls starting up a Swing band) and roll out a variety of gags and comedic moments. Weave through the tale the emotional journeys of Suzuki and Yoko and you have a dramatic anchor that keeps the story from getting away from itself.
Yuriko Yahsitaka is a gem as Yoko continuing the tradition of strong female comedic talents set before her by Juri Ueno in Swing Girls. Shinjiro Igarashi likely tapped into his former rock star persona Micky Curtis to find that perpetual crankiness needed to portray Suzuki, yet his disappointment at not being able to reach out to his daughter and grandchildren is palatable. The three stooges Gaku Hamada, Chan Kawai and Junya Kawashima are excellent as the fumbling employees who go on their own journey and learn to become true robotics engineers.
Robo-G is a delightful and light-hearted comedy that deftly explores everyone's need to be accepted can be realized through self-acceptance first. Yaguchi gathers together another excellent cast and delivers another excellent comedy.
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