Meet the Robinsons
- Reviewed by: Mel Valentin
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Current Rating 8.5/10 | 10 Votes
At twelve, Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry) is a boy-genius with an itch to invent. He’s also an orphan who’s been rejected 124 times by prospective parents. Luckily, Lewis has an understanding friend and roommate in Michael "Goob" Yagoobian (Matthew Josten) and a sympathetic ear in the woman who runs the orphanage, Mildred (Angela Bassett). Still, Lewis wants a family of his own and dreams of being reunited with his mother one day. First up, though, is the science fair, which Lewis hopes to win by demonstrating his latest invention, the memory scanner. If the scanner does indeed work, Lewis hopes to retrieve the long ago, buried memory of his mother.
Before Lewis can show off the memory scanner, a stranger, Wilbur (Wesley Singerman), appears and warns Lewis that the Bowler Hat Guy (Stephen J. Anderson) and his robotic bowler hat, Doris (Ethan Sandler), want to sabotage Lewis’ invention. Lewis doesn’t listen, the invention fails to work properly, leaving Lewis feeling down and alone. The Bowler Hat Guy steals Lewis’ invention hoping to pass the invention off as his own and become a multi-billionaire in the process (it doesn’t quite work out as planned), Wilbur reappears and whisks Lewis back to the future in a flying time machine.
Wilbur and Lewis’ return trip to the past gets postponed when Wilbur’s time machine breaks down (his dad’s not around to fix it). Lewis inadvertently gets loose and meets Wilbur’s highly eccentric family, beginning with Grandpa Bud (Stephen J. Anderson), who favors wearing his clothes backwards and keeps losing his false teeth. Grandpa Bud introduces Lewis to Wilbur’s mother, Franny (Nicole Sullivan), who’s trained frogs to sing and perform in a 50s’-style swing band, and various uncles, aunts, and battling siblings. The Bowler Hat Guy reappears, hoping to capture or lure Lewis into fixing the memory scanner.
Look closely at the credits and you’ll notice recognize a familiar name, John Lasseter served as executive producer on Meet the Robinsons. Animation fans will immediately recognize Lasseter as the Academy Award-winning American animator behind Cars, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story I and II. Lasseter has also served as Pixar Animation Studios’ chief creative officer (CCO). After Disney purchased Pixar early last year, Lasseter was given the CCO title with Disney Feature Animation. Disney’s current CEO, Robert Iger, had (and has) high hopes that Lasseter would be able to bring Pixar’s storytelling magic to Disney Feature Animation.
Lasseter’s contributions aside, writer/illustrator William Joyce deserves a paragraph of his won. Joyce has written and illustrated more than twenty-five children’s books. He’s also received three Emmys for Rolie Polie Olie, a Disney Channel animated series. Joyce has another series, George Shrinks, airing daily on PBS. Before either show, Joyce provided conceptual designs for two Pixar productions Toy Story and A Bug's Life. Two years ago, Joyce served as a producer and production designer on Robots, Blue Sky Studios’ follow-up to Ice Age. After Meet the Robinsons, Joyce’s name will be much better known and his books in higher demand.
Meet the Robinsons hits all the emotional and dramatic beats you’d expect from a children’s film involving time travel. The usual time travel paradox rears its head just enough to confuse (or potentially confuse) young children, but if anything Meet the Robinsons makes up for the convoluted storyline with enough eccentric characters and unexpected switchbacks to keep younger children fascinated with the proceedings. Everyone else, though, will easily figure out the major plot twists involving Lewis, Wilbur, Wilbur’s family, and even the villainous Bowler Hat Guy.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since Meet the Robinsons isn’t so much about innovative storytelling as it is about imparting positive, family-centric values (none of them even remotely offensive) and a “success through failure” theme that’s bound to resonate with moviegoers young and old. And if those themes don’t work, Meet the Robinsons name checks Tomorrowland (Todayland in the near future), a once popular Disneyland ride, plus a few movie references to keep cinephiles happy, e.g., 2001: A Space Odyssey (e.g. Doris the Bowler Hat), 1979’s The Black Hole, Disney’s ill-fated attempt to cash in on the science fiction/adventure trend that began with Star Wars in 1977, and the Matrix trilogy.
Ultimately, though, Meet the Robinsons is all about what we see, what we experience through Lewis’ eyes as he journeys into the near future. Luckily for Lewis (and us), the future isn’t that different from an idealized version of the future as imagined in the 1950s (i.e., retro-futurism). With an emphasis on curvilinear shapes and a bright color palette (reds and blues dominate), the future in Meet the Robinsons is never less than a treat for the eye. And in Disney Digital 3D™, the result is an immersive experience that moviegoers will want to repeat again and again. They just might, especially if Meet the Robinsons does well at the box office, expect a Disneyland or Disneyworld ride in the not too distant future.
© Mel Valentin, 30th March, 2007
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