Ratchet & Clank might be deemed perfectly acceptable by its target demographic, but it’s pretty broad, even for a film aimed at children. As far as video game adaptations go, Ratchet may bear the dubious distinction of being the most accurate. I’ve never played the games, but I’m reasonably confident I’ve developed a thorough enough understanding of their mechanics after watching this feature-length cutscene to predict I’d be bored within the first five minutes should I decide to fire up a console.
The cinematic equivalent of eating an entire box of Lucky Charms, Ratchet & Clank is devoid of any substance or content and will most likely lead to some metaphorical queasiness in the adult viewer. The utter lack of originality on display can only invite the assumption that the sole story of any value to the film’s creative team is that of the imminent release of the game franchise’s next installment. That this impending game is purportedly based on this movie’s plot is far from encouraging, as Ratchet is sorely lacking in the story department. Every tired kids’ movie trope is rehashed to the point that it might feel redundant even to the eight-year-olds at whom this movie is aimed, but it might hold their attention long enough for tired parents to catch a short nap.
While the film is competently animated, it shares the visual aesthetic of other modern children’s fare, meaning most of the characters appear to be constructed from polished Play-Doh, and the laws of physics are never in effect. Though the character designs were derived from the source material, a computer-animated film featuring a lead who looks like he was produced when a perpetually smirking bobcat mated with a Twinkie seems lazy, especially when that film is released in such close proximity to The Jungle Book. If anything, Ratchet’s cartoony sheen made me miss the awkwardly anthropomorphized facial expressions of Mowgli’s digital lupine brethren.
If Ratchet & Clank had been a gorgeously rendered visual triumph (it isn’t), it still would have been difficult to watch due solely to its weak characterization. While many of its characters are obvious references to sci-fi mainstays, none of them are developed in even a cursory manner. Instead of progressing through a character arc, the protagonist seems to be on something of a character escalator, propelled through the story without any volition to speak of and arriving at transitional moments as though they were dictated by a page number in the script rather than any narrative logic.
If I can say one thing in support of Ratchet & Clank — and believe me, that’s a stretch — it would be that the decision to bring back most of the voice cast from the games is commendable. The central performances of the original cast are every bit as strong as those of the celebrities in ancillary roles. In some cases, they’re stronger (looking at you, Stallone). John Goodman in particular sounds like he’s bored to be involved, and Paul Giamatti seems to be entertaining himself by trying to deliver a broader performance than he did in Private Parts. To be fair, this film was never intended to be high art, and these otherwise laudable actors do have to pay the bills just like the rest of us.
There are two essential types of stupid movies: movies that are self-aware enough to have fun with their own stupidity, and movies who think the audience might overlook said stupidity. Ratchet & Clank is the latter. For a film aimed at children to fixate so completely on narcissistic gratification and the legitimacy of egoistic grandiosity as a life goal seems like a great disservice to that target audience. Even if the sociological implications were set aside, this would still be a terrible movie strictly on the basis of its lack of entertainment value. Rated PG for action and some rude humor.