Riveting Animation Saves 'Robots'

Now in theaters: "The Pacifier," "Robots," "Hostage" and "Be Cool."

The Pacifier
Vin Diesel, afraid he's run out of gas as an action hero, wants to turn his career around. It worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Kindergarten Cop."

In "The Pacifier," which opened last week, Diesel plays a Navy SEAL lieutenant who has carried out top-secret missions all around the world. The movie is only a few minutes old and you've seen him fighting, stabbing and shooting behind hostile lines. Now comes the hard part -- doing comedy.

Diesel is as funny as hives. In the last act, it's the kids who save the day … and the movie. Let your kids go to this one alone. Grade: C+

"Robots," which opens today, is a much better choice for you and your family. The animation is positively dazzling. Even the robots' rivets are riveting. The jokes are funny, too, except when Robin Williams is telling them. Then they're fall-down funny.

What lays an egg is the story. There isn't one. In spite of A-list talent like Williams, Mel Brooks and Halle Berry, "Robots" lacks the emotional impact that made "The Incredibles" so incredible, or that made so many of us want to find Nemo.

Take the kids, but don't expect a great movie. The problem isn't what they put in, but what they left out. You know how your mom always said, "Looks aren't everything"? She was right. "Robots" is too mechanical. Grade: A for the animation, C for the story and B overall

In "Hostage," a police hostage negotiator is trying to save a family and then his own family gets kidnapped. Wonderful premise. Keep it simple and you've got a great suspense thriller.

I think that's what attracted Bruce Willis to this film. But the direction is way over the top, and the script has more add-ons than your cable bill. Ninja warriors? A house that's more like a fort? What does it all add up to?

This would-be thriller turns into a trite, screaming horror film. An hour into "Hostage," and you're afraid you are one. Grade: D+

Be Cool
In "Get Shorty," a great movie about movies, Delroy Lindo's character says this wonderful line to Gene Hackman, who plays a hack B-movie producer: "I've seen better film on teeth!"

That might be Lindo's review of "Be Cool," the all-star sequel to "Get Shorty." I'm a whole lot kinder. There are some laughs and it's fun to spot the cameos and the throw-away gags. I'll just say, "Rent 'Get Shorty.' "

You can tell what's wrong with this film in the scene when John Travolta and Uma Thurman dance. When they dance in "Pulp Fiction," we thought, what guts! How could a dancing Travolta in all-black make us forget about the Travolta in all-white from "Saturday Night Fever"?

They dance again in "Be Cool," but electricity sits this one out. It doesn't pay off. Neither do the jokes, the inside gags, or the showbiz satire. I'll be fair: Cedric the Entertainer is entertaining. The costumes get laughs. And The Rock is the funniest thing in the film.

But what can you say about a movie where the costumes get laughs and The Rock is the funniest thing? I repeat: "Rent 'Get Shorty.' " Grade: C