Director: Kevin Munroe
Cast: Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Bella Thorne, Rosario Dawson, Jim Ward, James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Armin Shimerman, and Sylvester Stallone
Release Date: April 29th, 2016
To its credit, prostate Ratchet & Clank isn’t the typical animated film. It tries to be better than that. “Time for a flashy montage,” onscreen text notes before a flashy montage begins near the end of the film. This is an animated movie that is pleasantly self-aware but that self-awareness unfortunately doesn’t extend far enough to make this film really stand out.
The new film is based on the Playstation video game series and focuses on the adventures of the two underdog title characters. Ratchet (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) is a young Lombax who dreams of being a superhero while Clank (David Kaye) is an intellectual robot he befriends.
For years, Ratchet has longed to become a member of the Galactic Rangers, an elite team of superheroes who strive to protect the universe. Ratchet’s boss — a mechanic named Grimroth (John Goodman) — discourages him, saying “Dream smaller. It leads to less disappointment.” Of course, Ratchet and Clank eventually get the opportunity to prove themselves with the Rangers and they eventually team up with them to fight against the manipulative Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti), a monster who wants to destroy multiple planets and then use pieces of each to build a new better one.
From the story’s beginning the major developments are clear and predictable. Like this year’s far superior Zootopia, this heroes’ journey begins with a naïve underdog character trying to do something special that’s never been done before. It’s a premise that often works (see Star Wars and Harry Potter for two more prime examples) but this new adventure doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd.
Ratchet is likeable — such underdogs usually are — but the story fails to break free from its clichéd trappings.
It doesn’t help that the Galactic Rangers are known to be the heroes of the galaxy but are totally ill-prepared for that responsibility. Their leader Captain Qwerk (Jim Ward) is an overconfident and obnoxious celebrity, who loves getting headlines in the newspapers (even when he doesn’t deserve them). Additionally, the rangers are known to shoot first and ask questions later.
Even when planets are getting destroyed left and right, they don’t seem that worried about the intergalactic warfare.
The plot itself never really comes alive to offer anything thematically interesting. There are so many times when the writing team of T.J. Fixman, Kevin Munroe and Gerry Swallow seem to understand and appreciate the formula of this genre and they have some fun mocking it but they never do anything dramatically to outwit the formula. The writers seem complacent in knowing that they are following a traditional template, slightly mocking it but then continuing on the same predictable course.
Admittedly, like similar fare, the story does have a moral lesson at the end. “To be a hero, you don’t have to do big things. Just the right ones,” Grimroth states. It’s a valuable lesson but one only wishes that the story had been more unique and witty to match that lesson. I will admit that there were a few lines here that made me laugh (“Can I switch sides now,” one villain asks when it looks like the good guys are winning) but that comedy wasn’t enough to lift this animated feature out of the doldrums.
The kind-hearted and heroic Ratchet ultimately deserves more than becoming a member of the Galactic Rangers and he certainly deserved more than this movie.
Review by: John Hanlon