I, Robot

Starring Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan. Rated PG.

It's impossible to predict the future, but if I, Robot is any indication, the year 2035 will be marked by much coveting of products by Audi, JVC, and Converse. (Wow, "vintage" sneakers from 2004!) The other thing one can deduce from its script, credited to Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman, is that tired old plots will never go out of fashion.

In a tale "suggested by" Isaac Asimov's same-named book of short stories, Will Smith plays Del Spooner, a Chicago homicide detective with a notable distaste for the mechanized helpers increasingly being integrated with humankind. Naturally, he's the perfect cop to call when the top scientist (James Cromwell) appears to have committed suicide at the super-futuristic offices of U.S. Robotics. This outfit, run by a guy (Bruce Greenwood) who makes Bill Gates look like a smalltimer, is bent on getting a robot into every home.

Spooner is sure that's a bad idea, despite AI programming that's supposed to protect humans, but does anybody listen? Certainly, he has a tough time conveying these concerns to his boss (Chi McBride, proving there will still be gruff black police chiefs in the future) and to the scientist's by-the-book assistant (Bridget Moynahan, proving that models-turned-actors aren't always the best choice to play wonks).

Smith is even more buffed-up than he was in his Ali days, which, apparently, gives him the strength to take a lot of showers. But the film's most compelling character isn't even flesh-and-blood. Stealing from Gollum, director Alex Proyas (the visually rich and intellectually impoverished director of The Crow and Dark City) gives startling life to Sonny, a luminescent 'bot seemingly made out of old iMac parts and based on the voice and gestures of Alan Tudyk, who played the self-styled pirate in Dodgeball. He's the bad apple that might actually represent something good in the "evolution" of robots. Or something.

Once you get over the CGI trickery, towering sets, and steel-grey imagery, nothing has much staying power. The story gets sillier as it goes along, leading to a wrap-up so preposterous that even Alan Ladd would have refused to deliver the final exposition, which sounds like it was lifted from a third-rate film noir. Oh, and one other thing about the future: still no kissy between black man and white woman! Talk about robotic.