‘Real Steel’: A real knockout

Real Steel (2011)

Directed by Shawn Levy

7/10 PG-13

Shawn Levy, director of such great family flicks as Cheaper by the Dozen and Night at the Museum, scores again with the family-friendly boxing epic, Real Steel. Based in part on the short story “Steel” by Richard Matheson and starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, and a sensational Dakota Goya, Real Steel is easily the best family film you’ll see this year.

Set in the year 2020, Charlie Kenton (Jackman) is a former fighter turned robot boxer, traveling around the country looking for arenas in which to show off his robot, Ambush. Overwhelmed by debt due to irresponsible robot betting, Kenton needs to find the one robot that will earn him the money he desperately needs. Helping him on his hunt is his girlfriend and landlord Bailey (Lilly), whom he also owes rent to.

His pursuit is complicated by the news that his ex-girlfriend died, leaving his son (whom he never met) in his possession. Little did he know, Max (Goya) knows as much about robot boxing as his old man, from watching television and playing video games. When Max finds Atom, an older robot, in a junkyard, Charlie doubts it can be the money-maker he was looking for. A fantastic journey of nostalgia, love, and teamwork leads to a tremendous punch-in-the-gut ending to the greatest family movie of 2011.

Jackman is touching, and his chemistry with Goya is nothing short of magical. The real boxing match is the one between this spunky adolescent and his dead-beet father. Goya matches Jackman eye for eye in the hilarious and unique spar of wits. Lilly is splendid and personable as Bailey, and has her own chemistry with boy.

Lastly, the robots are great. Animatronic credit goes to John Rosengrant, who also worked on Avatar, arguably the greatest feat of computer animation in recent history. The robots look realistic, fun, and during the whole movie I wished I had one. Real Steel is a great family film, a fantastic father/son film, but whoever you see it with is sure to have a grand time.

Real Steel is on Blu-ray and DVD.

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