If you start with the assumption that kids will watch anything, well, then they will surely enjoy Big Hero 6 (opening today). But most adults know the difference between filler and substance…right? I mean, you don’t put The Lion King in the same category as the Tinker Bell movie, do you? Both are animated, both are Disney, but most other comparisons between the two should end there. If you think all animated films – or family films in general – are created equally, it’s going to be tough to convince you otherwise. Big Hero 6 is not quite Tinker Bell, but it’s no Lion King. It will probably dominate the box office…will probably earn millions in merchandising. But I for one, expect more from Disney. And you should to.
I would have to guess that the plot of Big Hero 6 was at least inspired by the 1989 Nintendo game, A Boy and his Blob. The game featured a boy and his – pet? – blob, who was able to shape-shift into a variety of things to help the boy along on his adventure. Fast-forward to 2014, and we have Big Hero 6, with our boy, Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter), and his “blob,” a vinyl robotic being named Baymax, at the center of a video-game-style adventure.
When we first meet Hiro, he is “bot-fighting” in the back alley streets of the fictional “San Fransokyo..” We learn that Hiro is an absolute technical wiz, a Doogie Howser in the field of electronics, who also looks up to his older brother, Tadashi. Their parents died when Hiro was three, and they live with their crazy Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph). All of these facts we know because the characters state all of them plainly in the first few minutes of the film, in simplistic dialogue exchanges that feels poorly scripted even for a kids movie. Older brother then introduces Hiro to his “nerd school,” a tech academy where young geniuses are taught to thrive. Even at 14, Hiro gains admission to the school because of his amazing invention, the micro-bot, that quite literally allows its user to create whatever it is its owner can think of.
But after a tragic accident befalls the academy, Hiro tries to track down the origins of the mysterious event. He finds a medical health robot that his brother had created, called Baymax, and he befriends it. Because Hiro is a genius and because this is a cartoon and nobody will ever care, Hiro is able to instantly create, manufacture and fund anything he can think of, to outfit Baymax with body armor and weaponry that help him in his quest. A team of fellow students from the school unite and form a very unlikely group of super-heroes.
Hiro’s relationship with Baymax is one we’ve seen several times, with Baymax playing the role of Spock, or Data, a character who operates only on programmed logic and tries desperately to grasp the idea of human emotion. Things make such little sense here though, that Baymax often finds himself going outside the parameters that the film has already established for him. Anything is possible in Big Hero 6.
I won’t quibble with an animated film’s lack of cohesive logic, other than to say that, once again, I’ve seen so many better films dealing with the same life lessons, done way more effectively and/or entertaining. The faceless Baymax gets a few laughs here and there, but he is ironically not nearly as warm a sidekick as, say, Olaf, from Frozen. And although there are several super-heroes on the roster, none of them are memorable or stand out in any real way. The film itself is not that funny or interesting, and the run-time of 108 minutes makes this a hard one to even get through.
Not lost on me was the commercial opportunities that Big Hero 6 presents, and you get the sense that this element was the driving force behind making the movie. Many of the sequences looked primed to be turned into a theme park ride, and I found it convenient that Baymax was made of vinyl, a material that Disney has currently built an empire with, with their Vinylmation dolls. And with the limitless add-on possibilities that can be introduced to this plain-white blob, Christmas can’t come soon enough for the folks at Disney.
The best part of Big Hero 6 was the touching, heart-warming short film, Feast, that preceded it, that tells the tale of a dog’s life. There was more heart and emotion in that five minute film than in the bloated entirety of Big Hero 6.
Genre: Animation, Action, Comedy
Run Time: 1 hour 48 minutes, Rated PG
Starring (voices of): Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph, Genesis Rodriguez
Co-Directed by Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Chris Williams (Bolt)
Opens locally on Friday, Nov 7, 2014 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli’s “Star Ratings:”
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time