Astro Boy Attempts Bottling Nostalgia, Not Annoying Parents


Is it impossible to bottle childhood nostalgia in a movie? On the heels of Where the Wild Things Are comes Astro Boy, a CGI-animated origin story for the legendary cartoon hero of the same name, who first appeared in Osamu Tezuka’s 1951 futuro-Pinocchio manga comic. Westernized and sterilized, the still nipple-less, rocket-thrusting robo-kid now wears pants, flies without his classic theme song, and all but ignores his cult following to focus on merchandising to next-gen kiddies. But the fable stays intact: After smarty-pants schoolboy Toby (voiced by Freddie Highmore)—son of the genius Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage)—is accidentally killed while presenting an experiment to the villainous General Stone (Donald Sutherland), Daddy builds a tricked-out android version, made from his son’s memories. But Astro is not Toby, and so ends up treated like the robotic servants who wait on humans hand and wheel throughout this shiny metropolis hovering in the sky. Further class struggles erupt on the discarded Earth surface, where junkyard urchins wave their fists up at those metro types, and Astro ends up fighting baddies in both realms while looking for a family to call his own. Corny but good-hearted, the film tries hard not to annoy parents, with animation more fizzy than frantic and nerdy references to Asimov’s law of robotics, Kant, and Freaks: “One of us, one of us!”