At The Movies

Real Steel

Real Steel

Director: Shawn Levy

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly

Cert: PG13

ROCKY meets Transformers. And sure why not? So long as Michael Bay is nowhere in the vicinity to screw it up. And he isn’t. So, um, knock yourself out!

It’s the near future and the sport of boxing has changed just a tad. Robot boxers are the new professionals, giant humanoid lumps of steel that can fly like a butterfly and sting like a car crash. The punters go mad for this stuff.

So human fighters need no longer apply. Which means no knucklehead posers like the current crop of clowns on the pay-per-view circuit. And that’s excellent news. Just not for the old time sluggers like Charlie Kenton (Jackman), one of the top pros in the game before the machines conquered the ring.

Now fallen on rough times, Charlie is an absent father who scrapes a living on the boxing circuit, touring with a ramshackle robot whose best days were probably spent as a fridge in the 1970s.

And so it goes until the fates conspire to land Charlie’s son Max (Goyo) on his doorstep. (Somewhere in Hollywood there is a vault, and in this vault is a rule book, and one of the rules in this book is that boys in movies should always be called Max. A man can be called Max too, but only if he’s mad.) There’s been a sad turn of events and Charlie’s sister Debra (Hope Davis) is planning to adopt the young boy. But first, for reasons that only arise in movies, Max must spend the summer with his dad.

Which is awkward, but lucrative for Charlie so that’s alright. And at least the boys have a love for robots in common. Max even finds one in a junkyard and convinces Charlie to bring him home, fix him up, and turn him into a fighter. Max christens the robot Atom, who turns out to be an old sparring bot – a boxing partner programmed to take punches but never hit back.

Which won’t be much use in the ring – unless clever Max can convince his old man to retrain Atom, and teach him everything he knows. And, well, you know where it’s going from there. If you don’t, think Rocky soundtrack, big chunks of frozen meat, and the Art Museum steps in Philadelphia. Then think Mr T, Dolph Lundgren, and lots of car doors slamming.

The sporting underdog story is as old as the hills, the father-son bonding tale is almost as ancient, and director Shawn Levy (Night At The Museum) doesn’t really bring anything fresh to the party here – with the exception of those gigantic metal monsters boxing each other’s heads off. And that’s only new because it isn’t happening on a highway or in a desert, and doesn’t involve ten thousand dizzying edits per minute. In other words, it’s possible to enjoy it without getting nauseous.

Footloose

Director: Craig Brewer

Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Miles Teller, Dennis Quaid

Cert: 12A

A Footloose remake. And sure why not? Every other half decent film in history has been abused, so why should there be an exception? Besides, for reasons perhaps best known to sociologists, dance movies and TV shows have been all the rage for several years now, and the public still can’t get enough.

This new Footloose beast is pretty much a scene-for-scene, move-for-move rehash of the original, bringing nothing new to the dance floor except the faces and the inferior talent. Not necessarily for dancing, since apparently any clown can dance these days. But natural talent for that other thing they do in movies. You know, that acting thing. That personality thing. Charisma. Kevin Bacon had it, and still does. The late Chris Penn had it. John Lithgow had it. Dennis Quaid has it but nobody else here does.

Quaid is Rev Shaw Moore, preacher and sole moral authority in the Tennessee town of Bomont, where public dancing has been banned on account of a drunken teen tragedy, and where music and fun in general are frowned upon. I would never have believed that such could happen if I hadn’t lived for a couple of years in the American South. The only far fetched thing about this scenario is that Bomont only has one church.

Anyway, young city boy Ren McCormack (Wormald) arrives in town to live with his uncle after his mother dies. He quickly gets in trouble for playing his car radio too loud, catches the eye of the preacher’s daughter Ariel (Hough), and stirs the local youngsters up in a fit of rebellious dancing. And for a bunch of kids who have never danced before, they catch on fairly quickly.

But for genuine quality – and simply for the bygone, innocent charm of it all – everyone else would be better off renting the original.