Looking back I believe that the main reason I didn’t love Interstellar is that it was not very much fun. Though deeply heartfelt and inspired at times, fun it was not. A somber film can be a satisfying one, but Big Hero 6 reminds us how much fun movies can be. It is a joyous experience, with bright, imaginative animation and surprising depth for a film aimed predominantly at kids.
Be advised that this synopsis is full of spoilers. Based on the Marvel comics of the same name, Big Hero 6 takes place in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, a fanciful mashup that combines Tokyo and the City by the Bay; it’s like Blade Runner’s L.A. without the pollution and noir lighting. Young Hiro (voice of Ryan Potter) is a robotics prodigy who wastes his talents competing in illegal robot fights, much to the dismay of his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), a science whiz in his own right. Tadashi brings Hiro to his university’s robotics lab in the hopes of directing his creative energy in more positive ways. There Hiro meets Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell) and decides to apply to the school at the annual robotics expo. His invention, microbots that can assume any shape and are controlled mentally, is the hit of the expo and Hiro is accepted to the school. A fire breaks out in the exposition hall, killing the Professor and Tadashi.
Hiro finds himself in possession of Baymax, a medical robot invented by his brother. Hiro discovers that the fire was not an accident and someone stole his microbots for obviously nefarious reasons. He repurposes Baymax as a fighting robot, and with the help of Tadashi’s fellow nerds from the robotics lab, Hiro attempts to find whoever killed his brother and stole the microbots.
The plot is fairly predictable, but the movie is so inventive in the way it tells its story it doesn’t really matter. The characters all feel like real people, from Hiro (who comes across as a regular kid, albeit a genius), to the kids from the robotics lab. Particularly fun are Fred (T.J. Miller), a hippie whose stoner lifestyle belies a rather affluent upbringing and Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) whose bubbly, airhead personality disguises the brilliant chemist underneath. Disney animated films (lately, at least) have been peppered with overtly positive themes, and this one may be the best of all. It shows that being smart is cool, and that “nerd” is not a dirty word.
Unsurprisingly, Baymax steals the film from the human characters. Baymax is like Wall-E in the body of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Scott Adsit provides Baymax’s voice that brings to mind a kinder, gentler HAL-9000. The biggest laughs of the film come from Baymax’s physicality, as he tries to negotiate is huge body around household objects. One of the best scenes involves Baymax trying to maneuver as his battery dies, and the result answers the question of how a drunk robot would act. It’s amazing how quickly we start to care about Baymax. The comparison to Wall-E is apt, and while Big Hero 6 doesn’t approach that film’s greatness, it does manage to create an iconic character in Baymax.