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A Movie Nerd With Kids Reviews "Ratchet & Clank" (2016)

The Plot at a Glance

An alien named Ratchet works as a mechanic in the space equivalent of a backwater town.  He has a bit of a wily reputation and dreams of doing big things some day.  When a popular intergalactic law enforcement group announces that they are hosting tryouts for new people to join their team and go on adventures throughout space, Ratchet jumps at the opportunity and promptly fails.

His failure is short-lived, though, as he soon meets a nerdy / gentlemanly robot named Clank who has important, behind-the-scenes knowledge of a terrifying threat to the universe.  Ratchet and Clank team up to join the Space Rangers and save the galaxy.  They also have lots of nifty weapons lifted from the video game series that this is adapted from.

My Thoughts

Unlike the last video game adaptation I reviewed, I actually do have some familiarity with the games that Ratchet & Clank is based on.  They were among the last games I played before I gave up console gaming altogether.  I was a huge fan of the series and I always thought the characters would lend themselves well to a movie.  I still think they would, actually.  But this isn't the feature they deserve.

I hesitate to say it's a bad movie.  It's not egregious or painful or anything like that.  It's just boring.

The big crime here is that the movie does virtually nothing to set up the characters or give you a reason to care about them, with the exception of Ratchet himself.  You get a bit of his background and you get to see his dreamer's story arc, which is cute and nifty and all that.  But that's about the only thing the movie cares about.  Clank, who should be getting equal attention since he's also a titular character, is nothing more than a prop and barely factors into the movie at all.  It often feels like you're watching the sequel to a movie that already established Ratchet and Clank's friendship.

It's almost too much like the games, actually.  In the games, you don't need a lot of set up to make you care about these guys.  You get like a five minute cutscene to open the game, and then you start playing as both of them.  Since you will be spending the next few hours using their powers and making them work together - and since you are an active part of that group, their third, invisible teammate - you end up feeling chemistry between them naturally.  It's easy to project a grand friendship between them in the games because you're making it happen each minute you play.

In the movie?  Eh.  They shake hands and go, "Guess we're best friends forever now," and that's all you get.  That's a huge problem.  This is a buddy movie without buddies.  You get a better sense of camaraderie between Clank and the nerdy tech lady he befriends later, and they're only on screen together for four minutes.

But again, it's not really bad.  It's definitely not good - the animation looks kinda cheap, the jokes are flat, the story's pretty rote - but it does function as a movie and there's nothing in it (aside from mindless robot violence) that makes me question whether my kids are going to be warped by watching it.

I can't honestly recommend this movie.  But hey, there's worse things to have on in the background when you're folding laundry.


My Score: 2.5 / 5

It's pretty dull.

How Did Lulabelle (2 years old) React?

She was occasionally interested in the silly voices and the character designs.  Mostly, though, she wandered around and played with whatever other toys were around.

How Did Sonja (8 months old) React?

She didn't even look at the screen once.

How Did Stephanie (My Wife) React?

She also didn't look at the screen.  There was some good stuff on Pinterest, I think.

Any Useful Ethical, Educational, or Thematic Content?

Barely.  There's a light story arc about morality here where Ratchet learns that big dreams and lavish adventures are a superficial goal, and what he should really be concerned about is making good choices that help people.  It's covered up in a ton of explosions though, so good luck turning this into a parable.

Trigger Warnings / Egregious Offenses?

This is a pretty violent movie.  It's all directed at robots and spaceships and other inorganic stuff, so it gets away with a PG rating.  But don't let that fool you.  There's a ton of havoc.

How Likely Are You to Be Annoyed?

I'm going to go with 30%.  I think the mindlessness of the story could peeve a lot of viewers.  The more important question, though, is "How likely are you to give a shit?" And the answer to that is 5%.  I don't think you'll be invested enough to get annoyed.

How Likely Are You to Cry In Front of Your Kids?

Let's go with 20%.  It's extremely unlikely, but there are a couple of scenes where Ratchet is disappointed in himself and the music gets heavy-handed, so who knows.  Maybe if you're in the wrong frame of mind it'll catch you off guard.

Final Weighted Score: 1.5 / 5

I don't think the movie's quality is so poor that it merits a 1.5 out of 5, but it did nothing to entertain my kids and I can't say I was too hot on it, either.  There's very little to recommend here in the way of a kids' movie.