[Screen It]


(2016) (voices of James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye) (PG)

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Computer Animated Sci-Fi: A young mechanic joins a group of galactic heroes to stop a villain who's been destroying planets for his own gain.
On the planet Veldin, Ratchet (voice of JAMES ARNOLD TAYLOR) is a somewhat cat-like Lombax who works as a mechanic in a remote garage run by Grimroth (voice of JOHN GOODMAN). Having crash-landed there as an orphaned baby, Ratchet is good at fixing things, but wants something more from his life. Namely, that's to become one of the Galactic Rangers. But their leader, Captain Qwark (voice of JIM WARD), quickly dismisses Ratchet for a variety of reasons, leaving the Lombax depressed. But when out flying with a robot, Clank (voice of DAVID KAYE), that crash-landed on his planet after being deemed a defect from an assembly line, Ratchet ends up saving the day and the lives of the rest of the Rangers -- Elaris (voice of ROSARIO DAWSON), Cora (voice of BELLA THORNE) and Brax (voice of VINCENT TONG) -- with his quick thinking.

That doesn't sit well with the villainous Chairman Drek (voice of PAUL GIAMATTI) who, with the help of his mad scientist inventor, Dr. Nefarious (voice of ARMIN SHIMERMAN), has been blowing up uninhabited planets so that he can create a new one from the best pieces of each destroyed one. After Ratchet becomes a member of the Rangers due to his heroism, he then joins the group in their effort to stop Drek. But they must not only contend with his armed forces, including the hulking robot Victor Von Ion (voice of SYLVESTER STALLONE), but also treachery from within.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
You have to love Wikipedia. While some of its entries are questionable at times, for the most part, it's a wealth of knowledge regarding just about everything in our world and often beyond that as well. Before that and the Internet in general, if one were trying to find info on something with which they weren't familiar, it meant a look through an encyclopedia, a drive down to the library, or a telephone call to a friend who might be an expert to one degree or another on the matter.

But now you can instantly find scads of detail, although sometimes the sheer amount that's offered is so much that your eyes threaten to roll back into your head from information overload. Such was the case upon reading about the video game catalyst for this week's computer-animated, sci-fi action yarn, "Ratchet & Clank." Since my video game days pretty much ended when I was done with college, I wasn't aware of this game of the same name that debuted in 2002.

I'm sure whoever wrote the Wiki entry is or was passionate about the game and its many variations that have been released since its debut. But I became quickly bored and disengaged reading about them, a reaction I also had with the film. It's not bad beyond some snarky, self-aware comments made in the on-screen titles that describe the whos, whats and wheres of the story and feel too forced in trying to be funny. It's just that everything about the story and its characters feels derivative of things good and bad that I've seen over the decades in other films.

Since I have zero familiarity with the video game, any comparative comments are moot. Yet the one film that newbies will likely reference is "Star Wars," what with all of the similarities. There's the would-be hero character who lives on a remote planet and has no parents, but is good at working on mechanical stuff. He ends up paired with a small, sentient robot that assists him as he attempts to take on the lead villain who has in his possession a big weapon that just so happens to be a Death Star, um, planet killer.

Yes, there are plenty of differences big and small, but you can't ignore those similar elements, or bits from other films, such as having the protagonist join a group of space commandos led by an egotistical if dimwitted blowhard who's self-absorbed in his own fame. And the lead villain is assisted by a mad scientist type sidekick who's really the one in charge, natch, with his own diabolical plan that he's just waiting to put into action.

Speaking of the latter, there's plenty of that, and younger kids (and perhaps fans of the video game series) will enjoy the frenetic moments that co-directors Jericca Cleland and Kevin Munroe deliver. If anything, the story -- penned by T.J. Fixman and Kevin Munroe and Gerry Swallow -- doesn't have much in the way of downtime, so the totality of the 90 or so minute runtime moves along fairly quickly.

Even so, all of that, the comedy elements, the life lessons and more don't ever blast out of mediocrity and familiarity. Vocal work (featuring some Hollywood talent as mixed in with vocal actors from the games) is okay, and the animation thankfully doesn't stink up the place or soil one's eyes (considering it's stemming from a budget noticeably smaller than what Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and the like routinely spend on their main animated fare).

And just to be clear, it's not bad. And I'm sure some young viewers will eat it up and enjoy every minute. It was just so forgettable for me that I nearly needed a Wiki entry to remind me of what I just took in while watching the flick unfold in all of its predictable glory and sameness. I'll certainly need to reference that entry again should "Ratchet & Clank 2" (subtitled "More Ratchety and Clankier") ever be released, but I'm guessing this will be a one-off that joins a long list of unremarkable, computer-spawned animated pics. "Ratchet & Clank" rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed April 23, 2016 / Posted April 29, 2016

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