Sock ’em old school

Who knew robot boxing could be so fun

Real Steel
Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13
Rated 4.0

Taking into account that I’m bored by boxing and robots never did anything for me, it came as a real surprise that by the end of this boxing-robots movie, I was completely in Real Steel’s corner. Of course, it’s everything that the Transformers movies aren’t, so that’s a plus. A big plus.

In a near future where everything is just a li’l gaudier but still grounded in today, human-on-human boxing has been outlawed and instead behemoth robots are now pitted against each other for some rock ’em, sock ’em action. It’s a big deal, filling arenas like the biggest shows on earth.

But on a smaller scale, former boxer Charlie (Hugh Jackman) makes a vagabond existence pitting his battle-scarred fighting robot against whatever half-assed contender he can weasel a bout with. He’s a man who doesn’t know the word “quit” … or “luck.” He is pretty good at making bad judgment calls, though, like betting 20 grand that his robot can whup 2,000 pounds of snorting-mad bull at a rodeo. That ends just like you might expect.

And just like you might expect from any underdog boxing flick, he immediately gets saddled with a precocious long-lost son (an actually tolerable Dakota Goyo). So he and the kid snark at each other for a while until they stumble across a discarded sparring ’bot and realize that if they work together, they just might have a contender on their hands. And so it goes. Yeah, it’s pretty much the same ol’ story that goes as far back as the Wallace Beery boxing flicks, albeit prettied up with slam-bam robot-on-robot CGI.

Approached with even a little cynicism, the whole thing would be intolerable, but everyone involved here tackles the material without a wink. It’s a solid family movie that embraces the old-school approach to storytelling, even though the story is more than a little familiar.