Who's In It: The voices of Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlize Theron, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Eugene Levy, Nathan Lane, Matt Lucas
The Basics: A brilliant scientist's equally brilliant son dies, so Dad creates an identical robot boy with all his son's feelings, memories and knowledge programmed into it. And because this is a cartoon you don't have to feel all creepy about that. You can lean to the Pinocchio end of the spectrum and pretend the disturbing A.I. part doesn't exist. Then some adventures involving slavery, robot battles to the death, child exploitation and parental abandonment take place. Those are the bits you're allowed to feel creepy about.
What's The Deal: Your kids won't think twice about all the stuff I just wrote in that first paragraph. If they're old enough and hardy enough (more about that in a minute) then they'll just enjoy the loud, fast excitement of it all and want the DVD down the road, because this movie goes off in so many bizarre directions at once--and pretty entertainingly too, with lots of action, color, humor and speed--that at least some of its qualities are bound to appeal to your offspring. And later, when they're adults, and they rewatch this animated feature they liked as children, they'll finally see what they couldn't when they were the target demographic. Their eyes will open to the multiple freakouts and thinly veiled political humor taking place and they'll wonder how this was ever considered a film for small children.
Besides The Crazy, Confusional, Scattershot Stuff Thrown Up On Screen, What Else Makes It Appealing: The voice cast, especially Donald Sutherland and Nathan Lane as the less-than-savory characters they inhabit. You need good villains in a movie. And if they're named "Ham Egg" then all the better.
A Joyous Symphony Of Terrified Children's Shrieks Awaits You: At the press screening I attended, the theater was packed with very young kids. And thanks to some really frightening and really loud giant robots that had nothing but murder on their minds, the entire 90-minute running time featured the additional soundtrack of at one child audience member after another screaming and crying, then needing to be removed from the theater. If you thought Where The Wild Things Are traumatized your kid, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Attention Old-School Fans Of The Original Japanese Character Called Astro Boy: This one looks just like him! As for the rest of the stuff you know and love... THIS ONE LOOKS JUST LIKE HIM!