Frank Langella and his mechanical sidekick are lots of fun. Shame about the ending.
ROBOT & FRANK (Jake Schreier). 88 minutes. Opens Friday (August 24). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Robot & Frank is a science-fiction story, but only to a point. It's set in the relatively near future, and the movie creates an utterly credible world wherein advanced technology is convincingly integrated into everyday life.
And Frank Langella interacts with his prefabricated sidekick with the weariness of someone who's watched these things evolve for decades and still doesn't trust them to get anything right. It's a good choice.
A former cat burglar, Langella's Frank lives alone in upstate New York, and it's starting to look like he can't quite take care of himself. So his kids get him a helper robot, which of course he loathes on sight. But the robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) turns out to be pretty handy, largely because its amoral, project-oriented nature makes it the perfect accomplice for a couple of jobs Frank's been meaning to pull.
Taking off from this ingenious premise, Robot & Frank folds in plenty of other good stuff, like Frank's contentious relationships with his kids (James Marsden and Liv Tyler) and a more simpatico connection with an empathetic librarian (Susan Sarandon).
The movie's so good for so much of its running time, it's doubly awful to watch it self-destruct in the last reel thanks to a profoundly stupid plot twist. I actually cursed aloud when said twist was deployed; it's not only ripped off from another movie, but utterly unnecessary.