Adding giant robots to your typical sentimental underdog sports story doesn’t make the sappiness any more palatable, just way more expensive to produce. So all the fancy special effects in Real Steel can’t hide the obviousness of the story, in which small-time trainer Charlie (Hugh Jackman) reconnects with his long-lost 11-year-old son Max (the annoyingly precocious Dakota Goyo) while guiding a run-down scrapheap robot to the top of the boxing world. Set in a future exactly the same as the present (except for the existence of robot boxing), Steel does nothing interesting with its sci-fi premise, instead just trudging through the expected journey of Charlie and Max from antagonism to affection. The robot’s rise from the junkyard to the championship is equally predictable, and pitting machines against each other makes for less compelling competition. Slickly directed by comedy veteran Shawn Levy, Steel is rousing at times, but the story is as superficial as the special effects.