Meet the Robinsons (2007) / Animation-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: G, suitable for all audiences
Running Time: 102 min.
Cast: Daniel Hansen, Jordan Fry, Stephen J. Anderson, Wesley Singerman, Laurie Metcalf, Nicole Sullivan, Harland Williams, Matthew Josten, Ethan Sandler, Tom Selleck, Aurian Redson, Tracey Miller-Zameke, Adam West
Director: Stephen J. Anderson
Screenplay: Jon Bernstein, Michelle Bochner, Daniel Gerson, Shirley Pierce (based on the book, "A Day with Wilbur Robinson", by William Joyce)
As a baby, Lewis (voiced by Hansen and Fry) was left on the doorstep of an orphanage by his unknown mother. Twelve years later, Lewis is still at the orphanage, constantly passed up by potential adoptive parents because he isn't quite like the other children -- he's a boy genius and inventor, or at least he tries to be. Since no family will take him, he wants to find the one person who ever loved him in his life, his mother, but no one knows who she is or what she looks like. Suddenly, it dawns on Lewis that he knows what she looks like, if only he could create a device to probe his mind to find the latent memories of his infancy.
While demonstrating the device during the science fair, it is stolen by a dastardly man in a bowler hat (later dubbed "Bowler Hat Guy"), and then Lewis is whisked away into the future aboard a flying time machine driven by a boy about his age named Wilbur Robinson (Singerman). He meets the rest of Wilbur's eccentric family, all living in an age of wild inventions and futuristic advancements, but he's broken his means to return to his own time, and the only other way back is another time machine stolen by the same Bowler Hat Guy who has his Memory Scanner. He must get them both back, or else the new family he has come to know will all cease to exist if Mr. Hat claims it as his own as he plans.
Although Meet the Robinsons is a bit too frenetic in its pace when it hits the era of the future for my personal taste, the ingeniousness of the material, adapted (and greatly expanded) from William Joyce's children's book, "A Day with Wilbur Robinson", is too smart to disregard as just mindless 3D family fare. Eventually, even the pacing of the film ceased to bother me, as there is more plot and characters than customary for an animated family release, so if it seems in a constant hurry, there is a reason. The characters are silly and quirky, but all distinctly colorful and well-designed, while the depictions of the future are vibrant, detailed, and interesting, without overdoing the special effects and action as other CGI films tend to do.
With fluid animation, distinctly defined characters, and a swift delivery from plot point to plot point, this is a brisk animated adventure that perhaps only could have been made better if it gave us a moment to catch our breath once the story kicks into overdrive. There are many characters to introduce, but before we can get to know them we are in the thick of the time dilemma, and luckily that storyline proves to be interesting enough to hold our attention for the rest of the duration. Eventually, you learn that it isn't important to know who all the characters are and what they mean, as this is more about finding family as a large entity than it is about a group of individuals. There are some surprises along the way as far as what happens to Lewis and other characters in the past, but none of them will be surprising to those who've seen their share of time travel films, especially the highly influential Back to the Future series.
Meet the Robinsons is a better-than-average Disney animated film that strikes at nearly every demographic with competency. It doesn't bother trying to play stupid in order to keep the youngest audience members up to speed (they may not understand it all, but it most likely won't matter), and unlike many family films, it completely avoids all fart jokes and mild innuendo for easy laughs. It may not be laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it has enough creativity, characterizations, and wit to merit a viewing for those looking for a family-oriented film without the hangover for adults who are easily fatigued watching CG-rendered, overly-excitable animals spazzing out for 90 minutes.
©2007 Vince Leo