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Langella Holds The Screen In 'Robot And Frank'


Now, the summer blockbuster season at the movies is nearly over, which means some smaller and more independent films are making their way into theaters. Film critic Kenneth Turan saw "Robot and Frank."

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Robot and Frank" is a movie that makes us believe that a serene automaton and a snappish human being can be best friends forever. It deftly uses elements from both science fiction and classic caper films to tell its futuristic tale. The story opens with Frank, a retired cat burglar played by the letter-perfect Frank Langella, suddenly realizing he's broken into his own home.

Frank may have once been a high end jewel thief, but at age 70 he has difficulty remembering things. The only bright spot in his routine are visits to the local library, where he flirts with the establishment's last remaining flesh and blood librarian, played by Susan Sarandon.


TURAN: Frank's son, who's married with children, worries that his dad's memory loss is so bad, he thinks he's still in college. So he comes up with an expensive, futuristic solution. He gives Frank a VGC-60L health care aide, a talking robot that's programmed to cook, clean and get Frank on a healthy lifestyle regimen.


TURAN: That soothing, philosophical robot, flawlessly voiced by Peter Sarsgaard, turns out to be the antithesis of the malevolent HAL 9000 in "2001: A Space Odyssey." He really does want to help. Langella makes us believe absolutely in the growing relationship between man and object, even though the actor never heard Sarsgaard's voice until he viewed the finished film.

Langella uses delicacy and underplaying to effortlessly hold the screen, even when he's all by himself. Joining his classic old school acting with a youthful independent sensibility, "Robot and Frank" gives us hope that maybe the future won't be so bad after all.


INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.