The nostalgia value of Astro Boy alone is sure to see crowds beating a path to the cinema. The antics of this pint sized action hero have been delighting comic and cartoon fans since the 1950s. And if you ever wondered where the anime obsession with gigantic eyes comes from, you can look directly into Astro Boyâ€™s peepers. In fact, in a bit of a case of life imitating art, Astro Boyâ€™s creator, Osamu Tezuka is considered the â€˜father of anime,â€™ revered much as Walt Disney is by the west.
And so it seems fitting that an American/Japanese collaboration is responsible for bringing Astro Boy to the big screen. Writer/director David Bowers (Flushed Away) has stepped into the gigantic red boots, bringing along an impressive voice cast that includes Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Kristen Bell and Freddie Highmore as the eponymous hero.
Charting science-wizz kid Toby Tenmaâ€™s transformation into Astro Boy and the subsequent rejection of a grieving father, Dr. Tenma (Cage, with his best hair yet), the film very much follows in the footsteps of the heroâ€™s journey. However the trappings of convention, combined with some really cheesy dialogue and lacklustre action make for a rather uninspired movie. Perhaps weâ€™ve been spoilt by Pixar, and other innovative, intelligent animation that effortlessly appeals to children and adults alike.
Unfortunately, Astro Boy pales in comparison. Laughs are pushed a beat too far, while the jokes themselves are quite childish (a machine gun coming out of Astro Boyâ€™s bum-cheeks being just one example). There is certainly nothing wrong with a fun kidsâ€™ film for the little â€˜uns to enjoy â€“ on that account Astro Boy may well deliver â€“ but for adult audiences wanting to reconnect with the cartoon hero from their youth, this latest version just wonâ€™t pack enough of a punch.