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Movie review: 'Robot & Frank' a touch too whimsical

Published August 31, 2012 11:10 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A little whimsy can go a long way, but an overdose of whimsy threatens to capsize the comedy-drama "Robot & Frank."

Set in the near future, it centers on Frank (Frank Langella), who lives alone in upstate New York and is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. His son, Hunter (James Marsden), over the objections of his globe-hopping sister, Madison (Liv Tyler), buys a health-maintenance robot to tend to Frank.

Frank objects at first, but soon discovers the robot can be quite handy — and is a great help when Frank decides to revive his career as a jewel thief.

Director Jake Schreier and screenwriter Christopher D. Ford, both making their first feature, get serious at times in handling Frank's fading memory and a tender relationship with the town librarian (Susan Sarandon) — but that sometimes gets lost in the too-precious comedy. They get the robot right, with fluid movement (by dancer Rachael Ma) and canned warmth in its user-friendly voice (performed by Peter Sarsgaard).

Langella, who's always worth watching, balances Frank's slow decline and his puckish rebellion against others' expectations of old age.

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'Robot and Frank'

Opens Friday, Aug. 31, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for some language; 89 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.