Meet the Robinsons
Stephen J. Anderson
Jon Bernstein, Robert L. Baird, Michelle Bochner, Daniel Gerson, Shirley Pierce (Book by William Joyce)
Angela Bassett, Daniel Hansen, Jordan Fry, Matthew Josten, Laurie Metcalf, Wesley Singerman, Stephen J. Anderson, Ethan Sandler, Harland Williams, Kelly Hoover, Adam West, Nicole Sullivan, Aurian Redson, Tom Selleck
As Disney finalized its acquisition of Pixar, animation lovers everywhere rejoiced hoping that the Walt Disney Co. would finally learn its lesson and stop making movies on its own. However, before that can occur, Disney must off-load what it has left. The first of these is the film Meet the Robinsons.
Surprisingly more entertaining than the preview would suggest, Meet the Robinson suffers much like Disney’s other grand features. This time, they tell the story of a child abandoned by his mother when he was young. Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry) grew up in an orphanage where he tinkered and invented while hoping to find adoptive parents.
When his science experiment is sabotaged, he must travel to the future in order to stop the grand evil scheme of a ban referenced early in the film only as Bowler Hat Guy (Stephen J. Anderson). Upon arriving, we’re taken on a very long series of expository scenes where we’re introduced to his futuristic guide Wilbur’s (Wesley Singerman) bizarre family.
From there, the film plods predictably along throwing in exotic chase sequences built on the concept of theme park thrill rides and culminates in the typical moral sermonizing of Disney’s heritage.
Gone are the days of Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story 2. Those were films where plot was just as important as style and we found ourselves cherishing the characters as if they were family. In Meet the Robinsons, we’re merely spectators forced to endure ludicrous punchlines and occasionally satisfying humor. Anderson also directs the film, his first big screen attempt. When looking at his directing credits and seeing the abundance of direct-to-video fare, it’s not surprising the film turned out the way it did.
Even the advertising for the film went the wrong direction, taking the “big head, little arms” line into an attention-grabber yet ruining a more appropriate punchline later in the film.
I must admit that this is still better than the recent works of DreamWorks and 20th-Century Fox, but not by a lot. I found myself mildly entertaining in several segments, but completely underwhelmed overall. There isn’t a scene in the film that works perfectly and even those that send the audience into convulsive chuckling don’t have the full artistic impact that even Disney’s lesser Aladdin and Emperor’s New Groove had.
Perhaps now that Disney’s spent the better part of a decade littering the Cineplex with obtrusive animation and pedantic plots (with a few gems mixed in), we can get back into the style we came to love. Beauty and the Beast gave us hope, but the last traditionally-animated film Disney said they would ever make, Home on the Range, was not a great bellwether.
With only three computer animated features under its belt, Disney hasn’t proven itself. The promising start of Lilo & Stitch gave way to the abysmal Chicken Little. Meet the Robinsons doesn’t improve much on that and the premise of the studio’s next outing, Bolt, doesn’t give much hope. However, Pixar’s John Lasseter has been tinkering with it, so maybe it will fly, but with re-writes more accustomed to playing out in live-action films, it remains to be seen if it can succeed. We may have to wait until the fairy tale story of Rapunzel hits the big screen in 2009 to see if Disney can re-engage with its origins and its audience.
June 9, 2007