A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Robot & Frank is an indie dramedy with a sci-fi twist. Although the film's mature subject matter (an aging ex-con father has health and relationship issues) isn't too likely to appeal to tweens or teens, there's not a ton of age-inappropriate content. Language is the biggest concern, with one "f--k" and several "s--t"s, and there are a couple of passionate kisses and some adult alcohol consumption. If your teen does want to see Robot & Frank, the movie's futuristic setting and its messages about family make for interesting discussion topics.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
ROBOT & FRANK is about an extremely believable future in which most of society is the same, except robots have become as commonplace as iPads, and they're used primarily as helpers or housekeepers. Elderly curmudgeon/retired jewel thief Frank (Frank Langella) is experiencing signs of senility, so his son, Hunter (James Marsden), buys him a helper robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) to keep tabs on him, organize the house, and make him meals. At first Frank is hesitant to accept the robot's help, but after the robot helps him shoplift, Frank realizes that it could be his partner in crime. With the robot's help, Frank plans a couple of local heists -- one to steal a book for the object of his affection -- a sweet librarian (Susan Sarandon) -- and another to swipe a gorgeous diamond necklace.
Is it any good?
The idea is ridiculously simple for a sci-fi movie: It's the future, but there are no alien threats, human-looking robots, or prescient oracles. The idea that robots would be programmed to help the elderly isn't even that far-fetched, so it's genius that Robot & Frank would revolve around a grumpy old man learning not only to tolerate his robot but to befriend him, confide in him, and use him as his catburglar sidekick.
Sarsgaard's voice deserves a place in the annals of movie robots; it's perfectly crisp and direct, even when it's asking Frank to erase his memory lest it be used in a criminal investigation. And at 75, Langella continues to be one of the greatest, most expressive actors of his generation; he can depict cantankerous and confused with such emotion and humor. The relationship between Frank and his kids (Liv Tyler plays his humanitarian daughter who isn't fond of artificial intelligence) might be strained, but the camaraderie between him and his mechanical pal is genuine and touching.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about futuristic movies. How is Robot & Frank different than other future-set movies?
Frank is preoccupied with the book Don Quixote. Talk to kids about the significance of this text and how Frank is like the central character, with Robot serving as his sidekick.
Do you think the future portrayed in Robot & Frank is possible, particularly when it comes to elder care?
What are some other futuristic movies that feature a central robot? How is "Robot" the opposite of the robot in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence? Which kind of robot (those that look like machines or those that look like people) do you think is more likely to be popular in the future?
- In theaters: August 17, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: February 12, 2013
- Cast: Frank Langella, James Marsden, Peter Sarsgaard, Susan Sarandon
- Director: Jake Schreier
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Robots
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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