Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review: "Meet the Robinsons" is a Heartfelt Gem

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 140 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Meet the Robinsons (2007) – computer animated
Running time: 95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Stephen J. Anderson
WRITERS: Stephen J. Anderson, Michelle Bochner, Jon Bernstein, Nathan Greno, Don Hall, Joe Mateo, and Aurian Redson; with story material from Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, and Shirley Pierce; (based on A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce)
PRODUCER: Dorothy McKim


Starring: (voices) Daniel Hansen, Angela Bassett, Jordan Fry, Tom Selleck, Harland Williams, Laurie Metcalf, Adam West, Ethan Sandler, Tom Kenney, and Matthew Josten

Meet the Robinsons, a Walt Disney Feature Animation digital 3-D animation film, focuses on a boy genius named Lewis. His love of gadgets and gizmos takes him on a trip to the future and reveals to him great secrets about his past and about his own limitless potential.

Lewis (Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry) is a brilliant preteen inventor, but he’s also an orphan. He’s been living at the 6th Street Orphanage under the guardianship of its sweet and patient caretaker, Mildred (Angela Bassett), ever since she found him on her doorstep as an infant. Rejected by most prospective adoptive parents, Lewis decides to invent the “memory scanner” to retrieve his earliest recollections and hopefully see his birth mother. Lewis presents his invention as his school’s science fair where it is a disaster – mostly because of sabotage on the part of the villainous Bowler Hat Guy (Ethan Sandler), who steals the machine.

Lewis is ready to give up on the quest for his birth mother when he meets a mysterious teenager, Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman), who like the Bowler Hat Guy, is from the future. Wilbur whisks Lewis to the future in his father’s time machine/jet car. Wilbur is desperate to get Lewis to help him retrieve his father’s second time machine, which was stolen by the Bowler Hat Guy. However, when Lewis meets the Robinsons, Wilbur’s large and extended eccentric family, he discovers that, much to his delight, they are ready to adopt him. But if Lewis doesn’t stop Bowler Hat Guy, everyone’s future may turn out to be very dark indeed.

Meet the Robinson’s theme is “keep moving forward,” which is taken from a quote by the late Walt Disney himself, and the filmmakers stay true to “keep moving forward” in terms of the characters. Don’t let the past drag you down, and don’t be bitter about failure because failure is a better teacher than success, the film practically yells out. The writers deal with some pretty serious subject matter in terms of what it means to be a family and also what it means to accept personal blame for failure rather than blaming someone else.

In terms of the film’s visuals and production design, Meet the Robinsons looks way back into the past for inspiration. The futurism of the industrial design movement of the 1930’s and 40’s is present, as well as art deco (which was inspired by futurism). “Streamline Moderne, which was a 1930’s architectural style and Walt Disney’s “Tomorrowland,” join to create a heady, invigorating mix of the retro sci-fi cool and cartoon futuristic. This goes well with what Lewis uses to create his inventions: scrap, spare parts, household items, and odds-and-ends. Think “The Jetsons” meets “Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius.”

The computer (or 3D) animation, however, is highly suspect. There are times when some of it seems to disappear in a glare of white light, or the camera shifts and the entire 3D environment becomes two-dimensional. It’s simply bad lighting and poor environmental building (perhaps because of software and/or hardware issues). It is sometimes embarrassingly shoddy animation work from Disney, a company that has a legacy of delivering exceptional animation, even when the story is mediocre.

However, the truth is that while viewers may come to the film looking for 3D animation, they’ll end up staying for the story. Luckily, Meet the Robinson’s messages of family bonds and of never letting failure be a crippling setback make this visually imaginative film a poignant gem that might bring at least one tear to your eye.

7 of 10

Saturday, December 08, 2007

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