Ratchet & Clank

Posted by Joel Copling on May 3, 2016

For roughly half of its thankful brevity, "Ratchet & Clank," a film adaptation of the video game series of the same name (unfamiliar to me beyond its existence) that feels like it's far past its sell-by date, is actually quite enjoyable in spite of its limitations. The screenplay by T.J. Fixman, Gerry Swallow, and co-director Kevin Munroe might have a certain, committee-influenced feel to it, but the project is a pleasant diversion for an hour and a half. The colorful palette and appealing (if not exactly hi-fi) animation will be enough to keep kids occupied with the film's supply of diverse locations and space architecture, and the film has a welcome, semi-sophisticated sense of humor about itself that is a surprise. It is ultimately undone by another feeling--that of routine--but there is stuff to like here.

Its well-meaning hero and that hero's unlikely sidekick are two of the things easy to like. Ratchet (voice of James Arnold Taylor), a catlike Lombax who is one of the last remaining of his kind, doesn't have a mean bone in his body. That means he's not all that interesting in the long run as the hero of his own story, but he's an appealing enough presence to rally behind when confronted with the villain of the piece. Clank (voice of David Kaye), a defected prototype of the same kind of robot who is the right-hand man of that villain, is the source of the film's wisecracks, made more amusing by his programmed propriety. They come together after the Lombax is rejected as the fifth member of an elite squad of soldiers chosen to protect the universe and the robot escapes from the villain's assembly line of robots programmed to kill the soldiers.

The plot, then, is the usual stuff. We're introduced to the other members of the squad, who are barely even archetypes. The one with the most personality is the leader, Captain Qwark (voice of Jim Ward), a bumbling idiot who is never an amusing character because of his idiocy, and the others (who include the voice talents of Vincent Tong as Brax, the other dunderheaded male of the group, and Rosario Dawson and Bella Thorne as the two female officers) are even less distinguishable. The film compensates for this by offering a duo of more interesting villains, including Drek (voice of Paul Giamatti), a seemingly honest official of some sort who actually wants to build his own perfect planet from the pieces of other ones (His main henchman, the aforementioned villainous robot, is a battle-hungry brute voiced by Sylvester Stallone, but he isn't given anything interesting to do before his shrug-worthy comeuppance), and Dr. Nefarious (voice of Armin Shimerman), an old foe of the squadron leader who resents the title of "mad scientist" despite clearly being one.

There are battles among the stars of space. There are double-crossings as predictable as their solutions. There is a sound design clearly inspired and partly derived by a certain series set far, far away and maybe another one set during the final frontier. The voice actors are all clearly committed a smidgen more than is necessary, with Giamatti being the standout in particular as a villain only missing a mustache to twirl (He even partakes of an evil-laugh contest with another henchman that gets a big laugh). Munroe and co-director Jericca Cleland stage action sequences that are generic but competent and given the obvious advantage of creative weaponry (such as a grappling hook that is entirely plasmatic), but "Ratchet & Clank" suffers mainly from such obvious sources of derivation. It almost sets itself apart through its attitude, except where it counts.

Film Information

Featuring the voices of James Arnold Taylor (Ratchet), David Kaye (Clank), Jim Ward (Captain Qwark), Paul Giamatti (Drek), Rosario Dawson (Elaris), Bella Thorne (Cora), Vincent Tong (Brax), Armin Shimerman (Dr. Nefarious), Sylvester Stallone (Victor Von Ion), and John Goodman (Grimroth).

Directed by Kevin Munroe, co-directed by Jericca Cleland, and written by Munroe, T.J. Fixman, and Gerry Swallow.

Rated PG (action, rude humor).

94 minutes.

Released in April 29, 2016.