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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Robo-Dog: Airborne, a live-action family comedy, is a sequel to Robo-Dog, a distasteful movie in which an inventor dad creates a robotic dog, hoping to replace his son's beloved pet. Same dog and same family here, but with some twists and turns. In this story, the dog is lost; the pet's rightful owners make less-than-effective efforts to get him back; and a single dad is trying hard to please his young daughter. There's less insensitive material than in the original, but the movie is still short on charm, wit, and filmmaking competence. There's enough that's magical about the dog -- he talks, he dances, he flies, he has a good heart -- to engage kids, despite the amateurish special effects. And it's always easy to get laughs out of loud farts, a dog peeing, and a grown-up with the intelligence of a rock. Some scenes with mildly suspenseful moments show a little girl in peril, a flying dog crashing to the ground, a few pratfalls, and a small fire and explosion in a science exhibition hall. This is only for kids who know the difference between real and imaginary jeopardy.
What's the story?
ROBO-DOG: AIRBORNE, a sequel to 2015's Robo-Dog, finds the special robotic dog's family splitting up for a few days. While Tyler Austin (Michael Campion reprising his original role) is off to the state finals of a science competition, his dad, Tom (again, Patrick Muldoon) has been invited to speak at the World Science and Technology Summit. They'll meet up at the summit, but until then Tyler and Robo-Dog (who is now capable of flight) are in the uncertain "custody" of Barry, an inept family friend (Kenny Beaumont, also a producer). So, it isn't a surprise when an explosion on the first day of the state finals separates Robo-Dog from his family. Slightly injured and alone, he's discovered by Carson Perry (Jonathan Silverman), a well-intentioned single dad who just happens to be a computer guru. Carson's repairs to the injured dog work for everything but the memory card. Uh-oh -- Robo-Dog doesn't know who he is. Matters get more complicated when Carson takes the dog home, hoping to find a way to reach the pet's family. To the dad's chagrin, his adorable little daughter, Mira (Brooklynn Prince), thinks he's brought the dog to her as a birthday present. Carson just doesn't have the heart to tell her the truth ... at least, not yet. Meanwhile, Tyler and Barry are trying to find Robo-Dog, using the boy's science fair entry -- a "Waveform Global Tracking Device." Will Carson be able to make up for the falsehood he's perpetuated? Will Robo-Dog, now named "Mr. Sparky" by Mira, ever be reunited with Tyler? Will Tom's family make it to the summit in time for his important speech? And (spoiler alert) how will Robo-Dog's latest trick -- flying -- help save the life of a very important new friend?
Is it any good?
The kid-friendly story is barely passable; it needs audiences to overlook a lot of shoddy effects, lame humor, and illogical plotting. Still, this sequel is a breath of slightly fresher air when compared with the original. Jonathan Silverman steps in as the lead grown-up, taking over for Patrick Muldoon, who appears only in a few scenes in Robo-Dog: Airborne. Silverman is a good sport -- a hero having to justify keeping a lost, talking dog away from its owner knowingly and then learning to dance with that dog is hard to sell under the best of circumstances. And when the writing, directing, and producing are so substandard, it's twice the challenge. Still, kids may like to see Robo-Dog having tea, flying in to save the day, and rocking out solo at the "big spring dance" (which is apparently held in the morning in this community). At least there are no villains -- the bumbling doofus character here is a boy-man friend of the family. Cautions: A man farts, a dog pees, and kids should be old enough to endure brief, pretend scares when a little girl and Robo-Dog find themselves in trouble.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that dishonesty plays an important part in Robo-Dog: Airborne; not only was Carson dishonest, but Tyler and Barry were, too. In what ways were they deceitful? What consequences did the characters have to pay for their behavior?
Losing a pet is a very scary event. How concerned were Tyler and Barry about Robo-Dog's disappearance? Were their efforts (staking out a neighborhood overnight) intended to be funny, or did they show sincere worry? What steps can real families take to find their animal friends?
What are "special effects" in movies? Do some research and find out how special effects techniques have changed over the years. How do you think the filmmakers in this movie created Robo-Dog's "specialness"? Was it believable? Why, or why not?
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