(In theatres, October 2009) My familiarity with the original anime series is far and fuzzy enough that I won’t spend a lot of time criticizing Astro Boy for its adherence (or lack thereof) to the canon. Which may be for the best, since there’s enough to criticize in the film considered by itself. Ignoring the fact that kid’s movies don’t necessarily justify lazy screenwriting, the script is crammed with dumb Science Fiction clichés (Good/evil substances? Check. Memories from a cloned hair? Check. No concept of mass/space preservation? Double check.) and just-as-stupid plot shortcuts. Whatever depth there may be to the invented universe of the story is either ignored or trivialized, with what we can assume to be thousands of deaths hidden in the background. It’s a surprisingly violent film as well, with its lead characters being simply vaporized early in the story and numerous battles taking up much of the film’s running time. Ultimately, it’s the unevenness of the script that becomes Astro Boy’s greatest irritant: It panders to kids, serves them intense action sequences, wallows in lame dialogue and unconvincing subplots. A number of the robot gags feel as if they had been done far more skilfully in Robots, Inc. At least things move quickly: the pacing is quick, which is just as well when things drag on on the surface-bound segments. Otherwise, well, it’s the kind of average animated kids’ film that serves to put Pixar’s productions in such flattering light. Even when the result is just average, it makes us with for something better.