Ed reviews 'Real Steel'

Hugh Jackman stars in the robot boxing drama. Submitted photo.

3.5 stars; rated PG-13

Real Steel starts off smart. It opens in rural

America, scanning the countryside before moving to a carnival in a small town.

The year is 2020, but everything looks about the same as now, except for the

boxing robots, and even they look weathered enough to fit in. By adding one

unusual element to a familiar landscape, director Shawn Levy and company

effectively ease you into their world. Once you've accepted boxing robots as

part of the norm, it's easy to swallow what comes with them.

Real Steel is bombastic, cheesy and

packed with clich├ęs, but you don't mind ... well, I didn't mind, because boxing

is filled with larger-than-life figures, bombastic speechifying, macho

posturing and big bad action.

The stylized

battling robots are the eye candy, but the main storyline involves a lousy

father (Hugh Jackman) and a spunky son (Dakota Goyo). There's also a plucky

romantic interest (Evangeline Lilly from Lost),

but the heart of the film is in the father-son dynamic. Jackman, looking great,

plays a real son of a bitch. Young Goyo is a little too slick, but the two work

well together.

That's the thing

about Real Steel. You recognize it as

a hodgepodge of elements from other sources, a high-calorie Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Rocky with a dollop of The Champ, rolled up in panko Transformers crumbs, then deep-fried and

served with comic-book dialogue and blaring music. It's shameless and it's fun.

And the filmmakers pulled me into the high-octane hooey with their picturesque

Ray Bradbury-ish opening. Pretty impressive.