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March 30, 2007 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | March 30, 2007 |

Disney’s animated credibility has been in steady decline since the mid-’90s, when their musical cash-cows started to dry up. This decay has shown no sign of reversing now that three-dimensional computer imagery is in the fore, and their failure (and DreamWorks’, come to that) seems to be the inability to bridge this gap that separates mindless children’s entertainment and genuine content that anyone can enjoy (Only Pixar and Studio Ghibli have the distinction of doing this consistently well). With Meet the Robinsons, Disney amps the absurdity to Tourettic heights and, though they try to rein enough of it in around a positive homily, the results are both numbing and unremarkable.

The story: A plucky young orphan named Lewis (Daniel Hansen), who clearly wants to be Jimmy Neutron, has an alarming technical acumen and can invent useless contraptions that explode. His antics turn off potential parents, however, so a discouraged Lewis sets his sights on finding his birth-mother via some mind-reading colander. But when he takes his invention to the local science fair, a weird kid named Wilbur (who also wants to be Jimmy Neutron) shows up, along with some mustachioed Moriarty, who sabotages the mind-reading colander and vanishes.

(Big gasp)

So, then Wilbur (Wesley Singerman) reveals to Lewis that he’s from the future, and the two hop into his time-traveling Impala to journey there. The future is apparently a realm of pure schizophrenia filled with sentient, singing frogs, bespectacled canines, neurotic robots, and Wilbur’s family, the titular Robinsons, who are all criminally insane. There’s also omnipresent technology that makes “The Jetsons” seem positively toned-down. Wilbur and Lewis break the time machine, stranding Lewis in this nightmarish future while the aforementioned villain continues to harass them, unleashing a T-Rex on the family. And did I mention that this guy has an evil, self-aware bowler that wants to take over the world?

(Exhales, head explodes)

Anyway, in addition to the visuals, which provide the movie with enough energy to transcend comedy and hover near the surreal, the time-altering plot might be confusing for youngsters. Only at the end, when the nonsensical plot-strands have been eliminated or resolved, does the story’s convolution arrive at its purpose, but by then, the damage has already been done. Meet the Robinsons was sheer lunacy (possibly because six different writers passed it around) that never really achieved its comedic goal, and only slightly redeemed itself with the affirmative message that tries to anchor the latter half. What was that message? That we shouldn’t dwell on our mistakes, but “keep moving forward” toward the future. It’s a message that seems innocuous enough, but it might also be the same reductive logic that has propelled Disney to unleash this, their umpteenth clunker, in the past decade, without stopping to wonder whether they should be moving forward without some kind of major overhaul. Still, the eight-and-under demographic may walk out of Meet the Robinsons entertained; unfortunately, everyone else will have had a hard time not scooping their eyes out with a melon-baller.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.

Mommy? What the Fuck Just Happened?

Meet the Robinsons / Phillip Stephens

Film | March 30, 2007 |

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