If have young kids, you’ve probably lowered your expectations for acceptable family-friendly entertainment. From the sea of animated options, you know that few movies will rise to the level of emotional satisfaction of “Inside Out,” the daring adventure of “How to Train Your Dragon” or the dazzling visuals of “Kung Fu Panda 3.”
But even by the forgiving standard of stuff-we-sit-through-for-our-kids, “Ratchet & Clank” falls short. Unless you’re 8 years old or a fanatical devotee of the PlayStation games on which the movie is based, there’s no reason to see this movie.
As an origin story for the video-game characters, the movie chronicles the creation of the titular intergalactic special-forces duo. Ratchet (voice of James Arnold Taylor) is a lombax, a catlike alien who works as a mechanic with his elephantine boss and only friend, Grimroth (John Goodman). When the dictatorial leader of the Blarg, Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti), begins to depopulate and destroy planets, the Galactic Rangers — led by muscular Captain Qwark (Jim Ward) — go on an “American Idol”-like search to find a brave new addition to their team.
Predictably, Ratchet’s lifelong dream has been to join the Rangers, but his tryout fails to impress Captain Qwark, who dismisses him. Back home, our hero stumbles upon a small robot that turns out to be a “defective” warbot of the evil Drek and his mad scientist (Armin Shimerman). Ratchet immediately dubs him Clank (David Kaye). Combining Ratchet’s enthusiasm with Clank’s knowledge of Drek’s strategy, they are able to land two spots on the coveted squad.
Can saving the galaxy be next?
That premise sounds simple to pull off. But working from a script by T.J. Fixman, Kevin Munroe and Gerry Swallow, directors Munroe and Jericca Cleland fail to generate any emotional connection with the cliched characters. All of the veteran Rangers are trigger-happy, brawn-over-brains types, and none listen to the Rangers’ tactician/analyst (Rosario Dawson) — or Clank — even though their strategies are far smarter than “give me something to shoot.”
Unsurprisingly, the humor leaves much to be desired, with punch lines about vomit and unfunny recurring gags involving Drek’s Segway-like scooter. Even a bit of stunt casting — Sylvester Stallone as a robotic enforcer — is barely noticeable.
Visually, there’s nothing worth mentioning. The crowd scenes are particularly weak, and the backgrounds contain few of the impressive details that set exceptional animation apart from the mediocre.
PG. At area theaters. Contains mild rude humor and action. 94 minutes.