Studio: North Bank Entertainment
Director: Andrew Jones
Writer: Andrew Jones
Producer: Andrew Jones, Robert Graham, Jonathan Willis, Rebecca Graham, Harry Willis, Tom Willis
Stars: Dennis Farrin, Rahel Kapsaki, Paris Stangl, Peter Svatik, David Lenik, Klemens Koehring, David Lyndon, Lee Bane
After fleeing Nazi Germany, The Toymaker hides out in the Soviet Union where he creates two new killer dolls to join Robert.
I would call North Bank Entertainment¡¯s slipshod ¡®Robert the Doll¡¯ series a Poor Man¡¯s ¡°Puppet Master,¡± except Full Moon¡¯s cornerstone franchise already is a Poor Man¡¯s ¡°Puppet Master.¡± I would also wonder, ¡°who in the Hell keeps watching these rubbish Robert movies,¡± except here I am reviewing the fifth one, ignoring all evidence assured by the preceding four that these films are incapable of being entertaining, even accidentally.
Assuming I have to prove I watched this specific twaddle and am not merely repurposing general gripes applicable to the overall property, I suppose I have to cough up a recap. Following a flashback prologue whose inclusion makes no sense no matter how much I reflect on it, ¡°Robert Reborn¡± takes place in the USSR circa 1951. Toymaker Amos Blackwood has been hiding there since fleeing Nazi Germany with his occult tome capable of giving life to inanimate objects. Smart fugitives like to lay low. Dumb ones meant to motivate a movie put on public toy displays attended by KGB agents in their downtime.
After assassinating a democratic dissident, Soviet agent Olga notices a homemade flyer advertising Amos¡¯ ¡°enchanted¡± extravaganza. We know she likes dolls since that¡¯s what she and her commander discussed while sleeping together earlier. And is there a better way to unwind after emptying a gun into someone¡¯s skull than by taking in a puppet show?
Amos only has three dolls. Miss Cyclops flanks Robert with Wolverine-like claw hands. Kalashnikov stands on the other side with toy gun arms that somehow fire real bullets. All three ugly creations appear molded from hardened cottage cheese that a blindfolded kid crudely painted over.
Robert¡¯s dopey performance of waving a knife around for ten seconds impresses Olga as well as an ADR track of an unseen audience hooting and hollering like they¡¯re watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Olga absolutely must know how Amos made his doll clomp like mini-Frankenstein recovering from a car crash without the aid of rods or strings. Her quest continues weaving a web of murder and mystery spanning Germany, Russia, and Great Britain as officers from three militaries fight to possess the secrets of eternal life Amos uses¡ to put on puppet shows?
I¡¯m being sarcastic about the intrigue inferred in the first part of that last sentence. ¡°Robert Reborn¡± does take place in multiple countries, aboard an airplane, in a theater, and several other locations. But when such sequences aren¡¯t shot in a cramped closet where tripod legs undoubtedly tripped actors, entire scenes take place in a completely black room presumably because the production couldn¡¯t be bothered or couldn¡¯t afford renting/building a proper set.
Almost all movies cut corners. Yet when you see Bradley Cooper cradling a plastic baby in ¡°American Sniper¡± for instance, the first thought isn¡¯t, ¡°wow, Clint Eastwood thought he could fool the audience with this?¡± Of course not. Logical thinking assumes the production was pressed for time and the human infant, who obviously doesn¡¯t care about structured timetables, wasn¡¯t cooperative at the moment they needed him/her to be.
With ¡°Robert Reborn,¡± I¡¯m not confident the cast and crew knows they¡¯re not fooling anyone with their unconvincing attempt to have amateurs play a grown-up game of make-believe. A viewer might be able to take the movie in good humor if there were a sense that the filmmakers intentionally put tongues in cheeks to justify jankiness. Better yet, cheapo B-movies like this should just go full Batman ¡¯66 and get crazy with self-aware corniness. But when the first profile shot of The Toymaker clearly exposes that his horribly fake goatee isn¡¯t fully glued to his face, it feels like the creators obliviously think they¡¯ve done ¡°good enough¡± work to deserve a rental fee and 80 minutes of your time.
¡°Robert Reborn¡± at least includes fewer instances of aimless chatter than ¡°The Revenge of Robert¡± (review here) did. Trading toothpicks under your fingernails for powdered glass in your eyeballs, ¡°Robert Reborn¡± instead fills copious empty spaces with aimless insert shots of people walking or montages of stock footage set to public domain tunes. Just when you think the thrill-less thriller can¡¯t stretch itself any thinner, up comes six minutes of end credits crawling so slowly, you might think you unknowingly pressed Pause. Free advice: Hitting Stop anywhere within the preceding 75 minutes would be a more beneficial button press.
I won¡¯t end with my usual conclusion claiming if Robert comes back again, which he probably will, I won¡¯t be joining him. Who am I fooling? My desire to finally break away from this misery-inducing series has learned as little from experience as its stewards, who somehow manage to make these movies worse despite having been around this block five times now. Will any of us ever learn? It doesn¡¯t look that way.
Review Score: 20