Saturday, March 30, 2013

This Month In... 2007: "Meet the Robinsons"

2007 wraps up as we travel to the future.
It has singing frogs!


Holy Writers, Batman!

      Meet the Robinsons is the 47th Disney Animated Picture, released on March 30, 2007. Based on the book A Day with Wilbur Robinson, which was written by William Joyce (Rise of the Guardians), this was a film I remember seeing in theaters when it was first released. I hated it. I don't quite remember why, but something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. So, on the 6 year anniversary of the film (Note: Not actually planned), I figured why not revisit the film and close out 2007 at the same time. Directed by Steven J. Anderson (Winnie the Pooh (2011)) and written by... okay, here we go... Steven J. Anderson, Jon Bernstein (Ringmaster), Michelle Bochner, Don Hall (The Princess and the Frog), Aurian Redson, Nathan Greno and Joseph Mateo, the film follows Lewis (Jordan Fry, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), who is taken to the future by Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman, A Charlie Brown Valentine) in order to keep him safe from the evil Bowler Hat Guy (Steven J. Anderson) and his sentient hat. However, when Lewis finds himself stuck in the future, he's forced to stay with the Robinsons, including Wilbur's mother Franny (Nicole Sullivan, 17 Again) where he finds the family he's never had.

Heh, he's played by Mike Teevee.
Little Less Wonder

      Disney can, and has, done a lot better than Meet the Robinsons. The film is definitely more meant for kids than previous Disney efforts. The movie starts and ends pretty strong. A major part of the film follows Lewis's struggles with being an orphan. He constantly feels inadequate, never being adopted and longs to find his real mother. Lewis is a fairly likable main characters, as is everyone else, therefore we actually do feel bad for him and as such, the first 20 minutes or so are pretty good as we get to see Lewis's world. The ending also does manages to fulfill most of the set-up in the opening, even if it is a little forced. Okay, a LOT forced. But, the second act kinda ruins the whole thing. It's not bad, but it quickly becomes an almost non-stop barrage of loud noises, bright colors and silly slapstick. Each family member has a different quirky thing that they do and the film detours to many times to show how there quirks. During a dinner scene, an emotional moment is broken end the film suddenly parodies a kung-fu movie for a few minutes. It tries so hard to be hip and funny that it actually does detract from what actually works in the film. It also doesn't help that neither of the villains are all that great, as the Bowler Hat Guy is an idiot and spends most of the movie desperately trying to get some laughs. And the Bowler Hat itself doesn't talk, so it never really can become all the much of a threat. 

The Mother-Son-Son-Husband Relationship

      The overdose on humor also kinda gives the film a creep subtext. See, the big twist in this movie is that the Robinsons are actually Lewis's future family. Franny is Lewis's future wife. Wilbur is Lewis's future son. Yeah.... This is actually a pretty clever twist and the fact that is buried under that slapstick is a shame. The twist never actually gets explained all that well, which leads to some pretty awkward questions. Like why doesn't Franny recognize Lewis? They met literally the day after all this time travel happens, so shouldn't she recognize him? Plus, Lewis see Future Franny as a mother figure, so when he meets her in this past... EWWW! No, let's not go there. The movie, especially in it's great animation and designs, shows a lot of cleverness and potential and this twist is no exception. I didn't see it coming when I saw it in theaters  even though it is set up rather well. But as I said earlier, the movie is more preoccupied having a dinosaur chase (One of the few honestly funny moments in the movie), to actually flesh out this twist better.

I DO NOT like where this is going!
The Verdict

      Meet the Robinsons isn't Disney best work, let's face it it probably never was going to be either, but it is a pretty harmless little film. It is very likable and the characters are all good. The animation is great and kids will find it funny, and at some points parents will too. But that said, it's twist is likely to cause some unintended awkward talks with the kids and the film has so much slapstick in it's second act that parents will get a little bored. Meet the Robinsons is definitely not the future of animated movies, but it's not that bad. Meet the Robinsons gets 3 and a half stars out of 6. Next time on This Month In..., we're going to 2006, where things get lucky.

Bonus Trivia

- The dinosaur in this movie has a cameo appearance in Wreck-It Ralph.

- Jim Carrey chose to film The Number 23 over this movie. Great choice.

- Filmed in 3D and meant to be a live-action film.

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