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Film Review: ROBOT DREAMS (2023): Pablo Berger’s Film is a Clever and Fun Dark Horse Contender for a Best Animated Feature Oscar Nod

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Dog Robot Robot Dreams

Robot Dreams Review

Robot Dreams (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Pablo Berger, written by Sara Varon and Pablo Berger and starring Ivan Labanda, Tito Trifol, Rafa Calvo, Jose Garcia Tos and Graciela Molina.

Once in a while an underdog movie arrives that is so good that it could just sneak under the radar and be nominated come Oscar time. Films such as Babe and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On have fit this bill in the past. This year’s little movie that could is an animated picture called Robot Dreams which is a sheer delight from beginning to end. Set in New York City, it’s the tale of a lonely dog known as Dog who orders a robot which becomes his best friend. After an incident occurs on the beach that leaves the machine known as Robot immobile, a series of scenes follow with our two main characters dancing around each other, so to say, as both of them wait for the other to show up. In the case of Dog, he plans on going back to get “Robot” when the beach opens again for the summer, but fate has other plans.

What a delight this movie is from the sheer look of it (which loves the New York City locations it uses to tell its story) to its music to its depiction of urban life in general. It’s almost like Sleepless in Seattle meets After Hours in terms of its overall tone. This new animated picture even has a Mister Softee truck just like the 1985 movie, After Hours. Did I mention Robot Dreams is set in the 1980’s? When Dog goes through his mail and sees ALF on the cover of a magazine, 80’s fans will know they’re in the right place.

Robot and Dog form a connection that is cut short by the fact that Robot is left to waste away on the beach when the beach closes for the fall. Though Dog thinks he will come and get “Robot” when the beach opens back up, a scavenger finds Robot and sells him for parts. Will our star-crossed friends ever find each other again? That’s the premise the film employs.

Dog meets a female duck in a park who Dog starts to develop a sort of romance with. That, too, is cut short for reasons that you will see as the film’s story line progresses. Robot Dreams is a tale of two lost souls, one a robot and one a dog, in a city inhabited by animals. This film knows New Yorkers like the back of its hand from the street vendors to the folks playing music in the subways for money to the city residents who look to sell things they find on the street for cash. This film’s two central characters are adoringly likable and the viewer will hope that their paths cross again. It will be tough, though, given the very unusual circumstances the film employs.

One scene has Dog meeting a new robot and going to the beach with it. “Dog” puts anti-rusting spray on it the way people on the beach use sunscreen. My favorite part of the movie was watching “Dog” looking for ways to cope with his separation from “Robot.” It’s hard. When trick-or-treaters come to Dog, he sees one dressed as a robot and immediately becomes enraged because he misses his partner in crime (Robot) so very much.

Robot Dreams could score an Oscar nod for Best Animated Feature Film if it gets seen in time. It’s every bit as funny and moving as Babe and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On but in a more hip way, if that makes sense. New Yorkers don’t cry as ordinary people do. That may be a sweeping generalization but it feels true for this movie as the characters of Robot and Dog don’t sit and mope around waiting to be reunited. They must continue on with their lives even if that means meeting new animals or robots.

It’s a sheer delight to see that director Pablo Berger (basing this film on a story by Sara Varon) chose to go an unconventional route with Robot Dreams and its ending follows suit. I wasn’t sure which way Berger would take the action and each and every choice works almost perfectly. If the movie’s ending doesn’t feel like a happily-ever-after, you haven’t been paying attention to the character development.

While Robot Dreams isn’t perfect, it’s totally endearing from opening to close. One scene set in a bowling alley with a snowman felt like it was time-padding material but the majority of this picture is going to resonate with viewers, especially those who reside in urban cities such as New York. This film proves it has been paying attention to the way New Yorkers move and groove and, in the end, it captures the spirit of the 1980’s and New York so very well that I absolutely loved watching this movie and hope it gets nominated come Oscar time. There’s no guarantee it will but if characters like Babe and Marcel the Shell can warm the hearts of movie fans, so can Dog and Robot. Therefore, expect to be moved by this compelling and entertaining animated movie-going treat.

Rating: 9/10

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