Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pleased to Meet the Robinsons

I just met the Robinsons. And it was a happy encounter indeed.

While the reviews for Disney’s newest animated feature film have been generally positive, there have been a few (most notably the New York Times), that have taken a decidedly harsher view of Meet the Robinsons.

It really represents a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.

Meet the Robinsons is quirky, frantic at times, and clearly unconventional. It is also fresh and original. It has so many of the qualities that countless critics found missing in the numerous animated features that seemed to be constantly falling out of the sky over the last year. So when the film is described as “. . . surely one of the worst theatrically released animated features issued under the Disney label in quite some time,” such comments bear a note of exaggeration with fair degree of malicious intent.

The film chronicles Lewis, an orphan and scientific genius, and his time traveling adventures with Wilbur Robinson and Wilbur’s eccentric family of the future. The story does not by any means take the form of a smooth and linear narrative. Much of the movie is a disjointed bumpy ride, where the storytelling can sometimes be as off kilter as its cast of characters.

But ultimately that it what Meet the Robinsons is all about--happy, energetic spontaneity, with a very direct emphasis on fun. Director Stephen Anderson took to heart the story’s oft-repeated mantra of “Keep Moving Forward.” At the same time, the film refreshingly does not pander to the current entertainment climate that requires flatulence-based humor and PG-13 innuendos to effectively reach all the target demographics. It is unapologetic in its old fashioned, yet never over the top sentimentality.

And it is a healthy dose of that sentimentality that sneaks up and emotionally wallops you by the film’s conclusion. Personally, I didn’t see it coming. And that is why I ended up truly loving the movie. It surprised me on a level that was wholly and totally unexpected, with a heartfelt finish that reminded me of what Pixar accomplishes so well in just about all of their films. Yet it is not difficult to understand, in our popular culture which has become increasingly cynical and fueled constantly by internet negativity, why many critics and like-minded viewers would reject the Robinsons’ positive and idealistic message.

Enhancing the experience of Meet the Robinsons tremendously was its Disney Digital 3D format. The process was nothing short of amazing. It was my first exposure to the new digital-based process that utilizes circular rather than linear polarization, and in turn results in stronger more vibrant colors and an almost total elimination of “ghost images.”

An added bonus for most, but a near-religious experience for myself, was the presentation of the 1953 Donald Duck short Working for Peanuts. Made originally in 3D at the height of the format’s post-war wave of popularity, it was a joy to see it restored to a big-screen theatrical presentation. While the cartoon had enjoyed a brief run in the late 1980s as the pre-show for the Magic Journeys movie at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, that small scale presentation did not do it justice. Here's hoping that Adventures In Music: Melody, the company's only other theatrical 3D film, will accompany a future Disney Digital 3D release.


Anonymous said...

Based on your insight and opinions, we will be seeing Meet the Robinsons tomorrow!

Ed South said...

What a great review! I saw it today, and somewhere in the middle I got kind of turned off by the film but all-in-all it was a fun ride. Some of your readers might be interested to know that if they can't catch it in 3-D they will be treated to 1938's "Boat Builders" which was a great surprise and great fun to see all cleaned up on the big screen!

Anonymous said...

I have never had a reaction to a film as I did with this one. I cried hysterically watching my adopted children look puzzled as this orphan wanted to find his "real mother". He was also rejected by perspective parents because he made a mess with his newest contraption. All I could think of was the message to MY children that if they made a mistake, they could be gone!! I am outraged by the message in this movie and that there is no disclaimer to those of us with adopted children.

Spaced Out Dude said...

Will Working for Peanuts be playing in every theater, including the UK?

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Working for Peanuts is playing with all 3D versions of MTR. None-3D showings gets the classic Mickey Mouse cartoon Boat Builders. Not sure if things are the same in the UK. . .

Anonymous said...

Wow Jeff! You and I could not have had any more differing opinions than we have on this film. I thought it was an unimaginative pointless waste of my time! I guess that's why listening to reviewers is no substitute for seeing a film yourself

Kirby said...

I loved it.

Our 3D viewing in Canton, GA (Atlanta suburb) had no short at all - 3D or otherwise. The only 3D extra was a trailer for next October's re-re-release of Nightmare before Christmas (which we saw in 3D last Halloween, but I doubt we will go see in 3D again)

The 3D gave my wife an extreme case of eyestrain, so I will probably be seeing future 3D releases without her.

Anonymous said...

The director of the film is himself adopted so I think it is a valid point of view

Anonymous said...

Great eye candy - check

Large dollops of sentimentality - check

Worn out cliche Disney archetype main character - check.

Worn out cliche time travel concept - check

Make main character likeable in first act - not so much.

second act - missing. Story comes to crashing halt while we "Meet the Robinsons".

Third act climax with action, moral premises and plot twists - check.

Movie grade: B minus.

Note to student: "You can do better! And stop copying other people's work! (Wizard of Oz, Addam's family, Simon, Robots, Back to the Future ... . )

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Wow, all that and it still got a B- . . . not too shabby.

Seriously, at the end of the day it's just a movie. I long ago gave up dissecting films to the extent you just put MTR under the knife.

Opinions are very subjective. Remember the blind men and the elephant?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the anonymous woman who was outraged should have watched the movie instead of watching her kids. I'm adopted too, and I didn't get even remotely the sentiment that she did. The kid was not adopted, he was an orphan. He had NO PARENTS. He was therefore not looking for his "real mother", he was looking for ANY mother. He lived in an orphanage with no parents to call his own - of course he wanted to find his mother. Your kids do not live in an orphanage. They have a mother - you. The situations are not remotely similar. I'm willing to bet your kids got that, even if you didn't.