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Overall Rating
3.7

Awesome: 30%
Worth A Look: 10%
Just Average60%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 4 user ratings


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Big Hero 6
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Boy And His Blob"
3 stars

"Big Hero 6" is a film that starts off so promisingly that for most of the first half, I was convinced that this just might be the film to break the string of mediocre-to-bad feature films that Disney-Pixar has been cranking out over the last few years to enormous financial gains but relatively few artistic ones. (Before you write in fulminating with outrage, what say we just agree to disagree about the relative merits of "Frozen," okay?) Then came the second half and the growing sense of disappointment that I began to feel at watching a perfectly charming and relatively unique animated film change gears and become yet another superhero saga climaxing with another setpiece in which oddly costumed weirdos do battle while things blow up or crumble to the ground all around them. Little kids, its presumed target audience, will no doubt like it enough but I bet if you grilled them about exactly what it was about the film that they particularly enjoyed, they would even admit that their favorite stuff came from the first half as well and that the second-half pyrotechnics were just more of the old same-o same-o.

Set in the not-too-distant future in the city of San Fransokyo--which appears to be a hybrid of Moline, Illinois and Montpelier, Vermont, of course--"Big Hero 6" is centered around Hiro (Ryan Potter), a brilliant-but-aimless kid who graduated from high school years ahead of schedule but who now spends his time hustling chumps on the underground robot-fighting circuit. In an effort to get Hiro to make real use of his gifts, older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) takes him on a tour of the advanced robotics labs at the university he attends, shows him the project he has been working on--an inflatable robot (imagine a cross between the snowman from "Frozen" and the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man) named Baymax (Scott Adsit) designed to serve as a healthcare provider--and introduces him to the man in charge, the legendary Dr. Callaghan (James Cromwell). Duly inspired, Hiro enters a design contest that guarantees the winner a spot in the school and his creation not only wins but attracts the attentions of super-rich tech entrepreneur Alistair Krei who, over Callaghan's objections, offers Hiro a ginormous sum of money for his creation. Hiro spurns the offer and a few minutes later, the school is engulfed by fire and Tadashi is killed while trying to rescue Callaghan.

Hiro is, of course, naturally devastated over the loss of Tadashi and not only doesn't go to school but can barely rouse himself to leave his room. While in there, he stumbles over Baymax and the robot takes it upon itself to help Hiro through his emotional pain in his patented soothing manner. It is in this capacity that he inadvertently leads Hiro to a seemingly abandoned warehouse that appears to be cranking out multiple versions of Hiro's invention under the auspices of a sinister-looking guy in a Kabuki mask who appears to be up to no good. Sadly, even the seemingly liberal authority figures of San Fransokyo frowns upon wild stories involving imminent destruction involving a Kabuki-masked weirdo as related by a kid and his robot and so Hiro and Baymax decide to take on the bad guy themselves in order to find out what he wants and to save the day. Even after equipping Baymax for conventional heroics, the two are still in need of assistance and recruit a quartet of Tadashi's fellow big brains--Fred (TJ Miller), GoGo (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Honey-Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez)--to pool together their individual talents and join forces to save the city from destruction.

"Big Hero 6" marks the first time since the merging of Disney Studios and Marvel Comics that the former has attempted to produce an animated adaptation of one of the latter's properties, though they have hedged their bets somewhat by doing it with a title so obscure that most people may not even realize that it was based, however loosely, on a comic book. For a little while, it seems as if the grand experiment may actually pay off because the first half is perhaps the most engaging stuff seen in a Disney animated film in a while. The look of the film is pretty inspired--the family-friendly manga-influenced visuals are pretty neat and the friendly blobbiness of Baymax is far more striking than any conventional robot design could have been. The story may not be the most original thing you will ever see but I liked the fact that it stressed the importance of learning and brain power and demonstrated that one does not have to be a boy to excel in technological areas. I also really enjoyed the relationship that developed between Hiro and Baymax--the gentle byplay between the two reminded me in a strange way of the works of Hayao Miyazaki and how he told stories that were as much about emotion as they were about action.

Sadly, this sensation did not last because somewhere along the way, the makers of "Big Hero 6" must have decided that kids would not sit still for a story involving an emotionally devastated boy being brought back to the living by a nurturing robot and instead decided to shift gears violently in order to transform it into another goddamned superhero saga. That's right--having established a potentially fascinating premise, the films then pretty much tosses it all away for a second half involving robots, explosions and oddly costumed people doing battle amidst falling rubble. This is a narrative approach that I have grown increasingly weary of over the last few years and it is doubly frustrating here because the film didn't have to go this particular way. The characters are fun to watch, even if they don't contribute that much to the proceedings, and Baymax, thanks to Adsit's charming line readings, is as endearing a creation as one could hope to see. Then poof, they are all cast aside in order to do battle with a bad guy whose motivations, once we finally understand them, are murky at best and which in one aspect will strike viewers of "Interstellar" as being awfully familiar.

"Big Hero 6" has its moments of charm and little kids will no doubt get a kick out of it. If it didn't have those moments, in fact, it wouldn't seem quite as disappointing but by offering those glimpses of real inspiration early on, it is a double bummer that it takes the ultra-conventional path in the later innings. The real bummer is that if the film is half as successful as it appears that it will be and inspires followups, they will almost certainly continue along the superhero route and send the more interesting stuff back to the drawing board. This film will pass the time easily enough but if you want to see something that involves a superhero saga and the adventures of a surprisingly engaging robot, may I instead recommend a double-feature of "The Incredibles" and "WALL*E" instead?

P.S. As has been the case in recent years with Disney animated features, "Big Hero 6" is preceded by a short, in this case, the man-and-his-dog saga "Feast." I don't want to say anything about it so as not to spoil its gentle charms but I do have two pieces of advice to share. Parents--make sure that you get yourself and your brood to the theater in time because you do not want to miss this. Kids--the cartoon is wonderful but whatever you do, do not attempt to do any of the things you seen on the screen at home with your dog. Trust me.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25938&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/06/14 21:57:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2014 Austin Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Hawaii International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Hawaii International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/09/15 Charles Tatum Dazzling fun, beautifully shot 4 stars
11/21/14 KingNeutron Ending should have gone after the credits, but well worth it 5 stars
11/09/14 PAUL SHORTT I want to bugger Miley Cyrus. 5 stars
11/06/14 PAUL SHORTT ENTERTAINING, SWEET AND BRILLIANTLY ANIMATED 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Nov-2014 (PG)
  DVD: 24-Feb-2015

UK
  N/A

Australia
  07-Nov-2014
  DVD: 24-Feb-2015




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