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ROBERT REBORN (2019)
Directed and written by Andrew Jones.
Starring Lee Bane, Brendan Purcell, Rahel Kapsaski, John R. Walker, Dennis Farrin, David Lenik, Christian Roberts, Matt Houlihan, Klemens Koehring, David Lyndon, Cassandra Hodges, Paris Stangl, Oliver Berry, Peter Svatik, Jon Bard, Alec James, Christopher Bennett, Andy Evason, Svend Emil Jacobsen, Alastair Armstrong
This is it. The last, or should I say most recent, installment in the ROBERT series. I can’t say I had as much fun with this series as I did with the BAD BEN films, but Andrew Jones’ time-spanning story about a murderous living doll with a squished up face had its moments. Based on a doll that is supposed to be cursed in real life, Robert has tread his murderous path through a family home, then a museum, then went back in time to take on Nazis for two films.
In ROBERT REBORN, we find Robert and the Toymaker (Lee Bane) in 1951 Russia with the Toymaker running a stage show featuring moving dolls. He has added two more dolls to his collection since Robert’s toy companions were killed in the last installment. This time around he is joined by Ms. Cyclops (who has Wolverine-like claws) and Kalashnikov (who brandishes guns for hands). These two new dolls are not going for the subtle chills of the last two installments. Instead, they are more EXTREME and IN YO’ FACE! They feel like they would be much more at home in the PUPPETMASTER series than this one.
Say what you will about the Robert series, but it has been a bit more subtle than PUPPETMASTER. While that series has gone off the deep end, the ROBERT series at least felt like some effort was put into the script and there was a menacing nuance to the simple, yet creepy way the dolls moved. That is, until ROBERT REBORN which seems to want to brandish itself as not your pappy’s ROBERT movie. In almost every way, this film feels rushed and cheaply put together. It also attempts to bring humor and self-referentialism into the mix which sadly, doesn’t work as much as the filmmaker wants it to.
This time around, instead of fighting Nazis on a train, the Toymaker and the dolls battle KGB agents on a plane. The film doesn’t plod along, omitting the doll action until the second half, which they did in the previous two films. Instead, Robert shows up at about the twenty-minute mark. There also is an opening segment that clues us in as to who or what Robert is—a question I queried while writing my review of the last film. It only took five films to get a bit of character for the little guy. So two of my main criticisms of the last two films felt addressed and corrected in ROBERT REBORN.
Still, this final installment isn’t a good movie. It’s only for the ROBERT completists out there if there are any. I can’t say I have had a great time with this series, but it had its moments. The doll itself and the real story is actually quite chilling, but it still vexes me why they chose to switch up the face and replace it with a Willem Dafoe mock-up. While I feel give filmmaker Andrew Jones credit for sticking around for five movies, the well went dry by the third one. Looking back, the first three were actually well made and decently written, though derivative of better films. If there is another ROBERT movie, I’ll cover it. But it looks like the filmmaker has moved on to other projects, so it looks like Robert can finally be at rest.
Check out the trailer here!!
ROBERT (aka ROBERT THE DOLL) Review
THE CURSE OF ROBERT (aka THE CURSE OF ROBERT THE DOLL) Review
ROBERT & THE TOYMAKER (aka THE TOYMAKER, ROBERT 3) Review
THE REVENGE OF ROBERT (aka THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL) Review