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Trailer Review: Robot and Frank

By / Posted on 10 July 2012

Robot & FrankSummer 2012 has only just begun and it’s already been a fantastic season for cinema. We’ve been at the movie theater more often in the past couple months than ever before, and when you see a lot of movies, you see a whole lot more trailers. Some have been fun (The Great Gatsby looks like the movie Baz Luhrman was born to make), and some have been awful (we will not hesitate to inflict bodily harm upon anybody who exposes us to Katy Perry: Part of Me). Imagine our surprise, then, when the best trailer we’ve seen in months came before a screening of Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love in a quiet art house theater.

Robot and Frank has all the makings of a low-budget critical darling cult classic. It looks like a quiet character piece with a small ensemble cast of beloved and talented actors with a modicum of scruples. The hook here, as the title suggests, is that the adorably-aged Frank Langella is gifted a live-in robot assistant to keep him company in his autumn years. Crotchety old man no like new-fangled techno-babble. Crotchety old man like sweet funny not-all-that-old lady (portrayed here by the ever-lovable Susan Sarandon). Crotchety old man eventually opens up and forms a strong bond with the unwelcome element in his life — the robot — through a strong of neighborhood robberies.

Wait, what was that last part?

First off, Liv Tyler and James Marsden are too well-respected (barring Jersey Girl and Hop, respectively) to be throwaways, so we expect some genuinely sweet family moments between them and dear old Frank. Second, holy snap, is that Jeremy Sisto as the cop? We flippin’ love him, both for his borderline psychotic performance as Brenda’s brother Billy in Six Feet Under and his genuinely relatable down-to-earth single father role on Suburgatory.

Third, and most importantly, what an excellent twist! The whole thing looks cute and simple, a buddy flick with a robot and an old man, until the heist angle gets thrown in. Suddenly, it’s an old man and a robot reenacting Ocean’s Eleven in the suburbs! Everyone — absolutely everyone — cracks up laughing at that reveal the first time they see the trailer, and that’s a genuine moment right there. The reveal that the robot’s memory can be used as evidence, that Frank suddenly needs to protect robot like his own flesh and blood before they dissect him, is sheer brilliance in forced character study.

First-time feature writer and director team Christopher D. Ford and Jake Schreier certainly charmed people enough with their work to attract such a wonderful cast to their tale of unorthodox friendships. Robot & Frank was a big hit at the Sundance FIlm Festival and is set to premiere in theaters in the US on August 24th.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.