Little Box of Horrors: Robo-Dog: Airborne
We resume our long exodus, cast out of the land of good movies. Cursed to wander the desert of crappy movies, we search for the oasis that is the movie that is so bad it’s good. Just replace desert with Maine and crappy movies with RedBox and you get the gist.
Off we go, into the mild blue yawn-der….
Finding a garbage movie was a little more difficult than normal this time around. Until Guardians of the Galaxy 2 came out, it was pretty much the dead zone at the cinema. That famine lead to a feast at the rental/streaming services, however. All the Oscar nominees are finally out. The December blockbusters have locked S-foils in attack position. As such, the first two RedBoxes I went to were so packed with good movies, there wasn’t any room for the detritus I usually subsist on.
Then I found it: the South Portland Hannaford. It was a Mecca of refuse. It had almost no good movies. I bet you that RedBox is owned and operated by Nicholas Cage. The majority of the dreck for rent was children’s movies. As such, I decided to go even deeper into that niche. I picked a children’s movie starring an animal. Get your flea spray, let’s see which pound puppy I took home with me last night!
Alpha and Omega: Journey to Bear Kingdom (2017): The touching CGI adventures of the wolf cubs of Alpha pack, one of whom’s name is Stinky. Great. This franchise is on it’s 8th film. I smell a Uwe Boll style tax write-off.
- Robo-Dog: Airborne (2017): The touching adventures of a boy and his robot dog. His genius father shouldn’t get a Nobel prize for making the world’s first AI pet, he should go before the Hague for grafting all that technology inside of the world’s ugliest dog.
- Easter Bunny Adventure (2017): Finally a movie comes along to take the title away from marshmallow peeps for being the worst thing about Easter. Why is this movie still in a RedBox after the holiday? I’m sure a starving child somewhere could use a beer coaster.
And the winner for worst in show goes to:
Robo-Dog: Airborne (2017)
Tyler is the owner of Robo-Dog, his best friend. He can’t imagine living without him. I know this because the first 3 minutes of the movie are Tyler telling me this. He will tell me this three more times before the movie is over. Tyler is a child prodigy, the son of Tom, the scientist who built Robo-Dog. They both “science” real hard.
Tyler wins first place at his school’s science fair for a device that allows the plot of the movie to advance several times. He is invited to compete in the state level fair, but it conflicts with his Dad’s gig giving an important lecture in front of a scientist he idolizes. No probalo! Robo-Dog and Barry, Tom’s bumbling inventor friend can chaperone!
This leads to Barry catching the science fair on fire. Robo-Dog escorts the students to safety and then goes in to stop the fire. He is promptly blown out a window. I swear to Dog, this mutt has robot hands, super speed, and a jet-pack. I, as an almost forty year old smoker, could have prevented that explosion.
The “badly wounded” canine is rescued by a passing computer technician, who accidentally wipes Robo-Dogs memories as he fixes him. The tech’s daughter mistakes Robo-Dog for her birthday present, and they decide to keep him. Now it’s up to Tyler and Barry to use Tyler’s tracking device (convenient science fair project is convenient) to find the pooch and convince his new family to part with him.
Not cleared for take-off
Notice how none of that involved being airborne? I sure did. The jetpack is Robo-Dog’s newest function, and we see it three times. Once when they test it out and it fails. Second at almost the end where he uses it to save the daughter, after which it fails. The third time is the end, where Barry and Tyler decide to let the dog fly their car to NY so they can catch Tom’s presentation in time.
Firstly, that is insane. Not only would they die from being in a car at cruising altitude, but the dog’s flight system has failed catastrophically both times it was used. It barely carried a little girl. Sounds good! Secondly, for a feature of the dog so impressive you put it in the movie’s title, you sure skimped on the flying dog! They waste tons of their meager CGI budget to make the dog “talk”, but couldn’t afford to trot out the “obviously plastic dog with a drone stapled to its back” more than two times? Lame.
AntBoy 3, 2?
This movie suffers from all the same criticisms I gave AntBoy 3. The acting isn’t bad so much as it’s bland and amateurish. The dialogue is sappy and relies on cliche jokes followed by mugging for the camera. Unlike AntBoy, this movie has zero action to help move it along. The closest we get to that is a fake plastic dog being blown out a window. As such, this movie moves glacially.
The messages in the movie were fine. It gives two really nice speeches about the importance of science, and one decent lesson about doing a bad thing (Robo-Dog-napping) for a good reason. As far as your garden variety “teach kids a few lessons while keeping it silly” show, this could have worked at 22 minutes. It might have just cleared muster at 40 minutes. 95 minutes was way too much of a reach, even for a dog with “Go-Go Gadget!” hands.
Nuclear Rant Detected!
It’s been awhile since I’ve had a good old fashioned rant, so here goes. While I applaud this movie for paying lip service to how important it is to get children engaged with STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), it does everyone a disservice by its portrayal of those topics. “Fixing” a physically damaged Robo-Dog is just the guy from Weekend at Bernie’s pressing buttons on a laptop incoherently. I already bitched about Tyler’s project. Barry’s inventions are dumb comic props that would get a yawn from Carrot Top.
Science is the systematic observation of things leading to an explanation of the behavior of said things in the universe. There’s a misconception that Science is just a subjective explanation, equal to a belief system or religion; and that engineering is just that belief plus duct-tape. The shoddy science on display here is the equivalent of getting kids interested in Dinosaurs by showing them pictures of Iguanas and Salamanders. It’s deeply flawed at best.
The Verdict: Play Dead
This movie was just too much nothing for way too long. I can’t imagine it would hold a child’s attention. For adults, the effects are a little more… adverse. If you want a cool science dog, go check out the YouTube videos of the Boston Dynamics robo-dog Spot. It’s funny, informative, and mercifully brief. Everything this film failed to be.