Original Release: March 23, 2007
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Directed By: Steve Anderson
Notable Actors: Jordan Fry, Wesley Singerman, Harland Williams, Tom Kenny, Steve Anderson, Angela Bassett and Adam West.
It’s strange to think that this is really the first time we are seeing time travel in a Disney film. After all, isn’t the future and the way the world will turn out sort of the whole point of Tomorrow Land? Meet the Robinsons comes to us with the best intentions. It really really wants to be a good movie. It really really wants to take the ideals of Walt Disney and show them to us in a fun and entertaining way. It really really wants us to think that a dinosaur being thrown in the plot makes sense. Sometimes, especially near its final scenes, Meet the Robinsons gets what it wants. Other times, it doggie paddles for help. While this is another film that is considered one of the low points, it’s hard to deny that when it gets it right, it REALLY gets it right.
Very loosely based on the book, A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce, Meet the Robinsons was the first film to be released after John Lasseter became chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios. We’re going to talk a lot about John over the next few weeks but I should probably just say right now that I am a fan. The film itself originally shared the same name as the book. It was meant to come out in 2006. When Lasseter saw the film though, he found the villain to not be interesting or threatening and asked that things be retooled. Changes began to unfold and within 6 months, over half the movie had been thrown out and redone. Also, a dinosaur was added.
Meet the Robinsons tells the story of an orphan (shocker) named Lewis who has a bright mind and likes to invent things. He is also looking for his mother, who left him at birth. This sets him on a path to create a machine that can look into the past so that he can find out who his real mother is. Of course, this is all thwarted when an evil guy in a bowler hat shows up to mess things up. Soon, Lewis is being taken away by a young man, Wilbur, from the future and the adventure ensues as they try to avoid being caught by Bowler Hat Guy, and DOR-15 (Doris), his hat.
The time travel aspect is actually pretty fun and makes for a fairly interesting time space continuum plot. What affects what? How does the world change with one decision? Why are our failures just as important as our victories? These are the questions that start to unravel as Lewis begins to discover how the world got to be the way it is. Lewis is a fairly strong main character and his plight of wanting to find a family and find his mother is one that is very easy to relate to within this crazy story that can sometimes seem a bit far fetched.
Let’s be honest though, the star of this movie is not Lewis. It’s Bowler Hat Guy, otherwise known as Goob. Good Christ is he hilarious. The way he moves is hilarious. The way he smiles is hilarious. He is so absolutely crazy that I can’t help but love him. I especially love that he takes orders from his hat, because he isn’t smart enough to come up with an idea on his own. He also has the most interesting complex story in the film. I love that he is a result of what happens when you don’t let go of things and allow your life to be defined by events in your past. I love that Doris is actually the evil mastermind and that moment when he discovers it is so good. He also has this great moment where he crosses all the evil things off his to-do list and instead puts a question mark. It’s so well done and actually pretty moving.
I take issue with this film in just how many random characters that are thrown at us. We don’t get a chance to know any of them and most of them are just there for a single gag. There’s no depth and I often wondered if there were simply a bunch of characters so that it might be just a bit harder to predict the very predictable plot point that they are actually his family from the future. Another device used to divert us that doesn’t make any sense is the changing of Lewis’ name at the end. He’s a teenager. Do many teenagers get adopted and then get a first name change? I don’t believe so. Moments like these just feel like they were shoveled in to try and cover up a surprise that’s simply not that hard to guess.
Yet all of these complaints go out the window in the final fifteen minutes of the film when Lewis finally gets his chance to meet his mother and doesn’t take it, finally understanding that the best thing to do is to keep moving forward. I love the idea that he has to make the right choices to get back to the life that he wanted so badly and the climax is actually handled very well as Lewis thwarts the evil future that Doris tries to bring. The final quote from Walt and the revelation of where the phrase “Keep moving forward” comes from is the best moment of the film. It is so moving and wonderful and it really sealed the deal for me that this would not be a film that I would hate. It had made its point and done it with class and style.
Meet the Robinsons is far from perfect. Yet, you have to appreciate that the film really strikes gold with its message of moving past the bad things in order to get to the good things. It does this with such focused energy that you really feel it by the end. The villain is top notch and the laughs are mostly genuine. Sure there’s a lot of fluff that could have been cut out, but at the end of the day, this film tells a good story that’s sure to warm a lot of hearts and it also shows that Disney was getting better with CGI animation. All in all, a valiant effort.
This week, I’ll be announcing a new project for this blog that I will be teaming up with my partner Carl Li for. I can promise you that you won’t guess what it is and it’s going to be a ton of fun as it combines several of my favorite things! Oh and also we have to watch some movie about a dog.
Next Up: Bolt
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NOTE: Obviously all the photos are courtesy of Disney Entertainment and I would never in a million years claim them as my own. That being said, all are actually taken with my phone during our viewing in order to capture the moment in a slightly different way than originally intended.
ALSO: My Fiancee has a blog too and he is talking about all the classics we are currently watching, which involves more than just Disney. Head overHERE and check it out!