The Champ meets Rocky meets Iron Man in this highly entertaining Disney yarn that will have enormous appeal for teenage gamers but also has enough drama and romance and spirit to keep the whole family interested.

Real Steel is set in the near future where we are introduced to Hugh Jackman. He's a truck-driving drifter who ekes out a living transporting fighting robots from venue to venue. He gets a genuine thrill from pitting his bots against his opponents, even though his track record is littered with defeats. On the positive side, he always knows that he and his damaged robots can limp back to the boxing gym run by Evangeline Lily (she of Lost fame); a woman who can work wonders in healing both man and steel.

The story kicks into gear when Hugh gets temporary custody of his 11-year-old son (an excellent Dakota Goyo), from his late wife's sister (Hope Davis) and her rich husband (James Rebhorn). Initially this change in his living arrangements puts a crimp in our man's nomadic existence but gradually they form a bond over a discarded robot that together they help turn into an unlikely champion.

As you can imagine from that last sentence, Real Steel has the potential to be a complete cliché fest, but director Shawn Levy avoids most (if not all) of the pitfalls. This is thanks in no small part to the strong performance from the always likable Jackman, plus strong supporting turns from young Goya and Lily. By the way, that Jackman should look the part in the boxing sequences is no surprise since he's the son of a boxer, was trained by Sugar Ray Leonard for the movie and also has all the graceful footwork that comes with being a trained dancer.

Michael Doherty