Disney has traditionally relied on the substantial talents of Pixar for all the computer animated films it releases, but those days have sadly come to an end. Both “The Incredibles” and “Meet the Robinsons” happen to have a masterful child inventor with something to prove to the world. Gadgets, superpowers, and (presumably) enjoyment ensue.
“Meet the Robinsons” tells a story as cliché as the utopian 1950’s future it depicts, plain and simple. Seriously, we’re talking about a buffet of tired influences here, drawn from all over the place. Sympathetic orphan protagonist with Jimmy Neutron hair? Check. (Is it just me, or has Disney cornered the market on sympathetic orphans by now?) A pithy talking robot a la “Robots?” Check. And so on. As far as the plot goes, let’s just say the nuances of time travel and kid’s movies don’t mix very well. Seems like the plan was to delve into the same bag of tricks we’ve seen countless times in hopes viewers will confuse familiarity with enjoyment.
The Defending Champion
Bob Parr, the former Mr. Incredible, laments near the beginning of the film that “they keep finding ways to celebrate mediocrity.” He’s referring to the bureaucrats of the world who have forced superheroes underground with the mantra we hear all too often these days, “everybody is special.” (The unspoken assumption here being that nobody can be too special, so there’s no room for heroes.) Fortunately, this movie is anything but mediocre, and manages to sneak in a pretty complex message for a movie primarily marketed towards ten-year-olds.
“Meet the Robinsons” tries far too hard to be the type of movie meant for a younger audience that an older one can also enjoy. Let me assure you right now that you’ll groan when they try to make a Tom Selleck reference. (Yes, Tom Selleck, of all people.) And you’ll scratch your head when you catch Rufus Wainwright singing on the soundtrack. “The Incredibles,” on the other hand, seems to achieve universal appeal by being, well… universally appealing. What I’m trying to say here is that it isn’t just a good movie for kids, it’s a good movie for everyone. With contemporary themes, sympathetic characters and stunning visuals, I’d recommend it to anyone… regardless of how old they are.
At the end of “Meet the Robinsons” is an inspirational quote from Walt Disney: “Keep moving forward.” I found it to be slightly ironically placed, as if the creators were, on some level, apologizing. Don’t get me wrong, watching this movie wasn’t torture or anything. But when you’ve got entertainment on the level of “The Incredibles,” there’s really no contest. I’ll bet you right now that animated films will still be trying to top it years from now.