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Meet the Robinsons
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Even In 2-D, A Fairly Eye-Popping Film"
4 stars

The arrival of “Meet the Robinsons” is an event that has no doubt inspired involuntary flinches in many a parent out there. For starters, it is another animated feature and while the last few months have offered a few surprisingly decent examples of the genre (such as “Flushed Away,” “Happy Feet” and “Arthur and the Invisibles”), those memories are inevitably tarnished by such noisy and unappealing dregs as “Barnyard” and “Open Season.” Then there is the fact that it is an animated feature from Disney Studios and while they are still the first name in animation, even their most fawning apologists would be hard-pressed to come up with a legitimate defense for the likes of “Chicken Little” or “The Wild.” Finally, the film is being projected in many theaters in 3-D and it is a simple fact of life that despite the artistic and technological shoddiness of most of those endeavors (such as “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl”), it is one of those eternal gimmicks that will always entrance kids and inspire them to nag their parents into taking them until they finally give in. With all of these ingredients thrown together, one might be forgiven for assuming that the resulting film would be nothing more than a headache-inducing mess unfit for anyone over the age of 12. I know those were my suspicions when I sat down for the screening but I am happy to inform you that the film is anything but that. In fact, it is a fast, fun and frequently dazzling romp that parents should enjoy as much as their offspring and while it might not be a instant Disney classic, it is by far the closest thing to one that the studio has produced in-house in quite a while.

Our hero is Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry), a brilliant young lad whose two greatest dreams in life are to be an inventor and to find the mother who left him on the steps of the local orphanage when he was just a wee lad. Before long, he decides to fuse his two desires into one by designing and building a Memory Scanner, a contraption that will allow the user to lock onto any memory buried deep within his or her mind and bring it to the surface, in order to both win the local science fair and identify the mother who gave him up all those years ago. Alas, both of these plans go out the window when the machine is sabotaged and later stolen by a mysterious rotter known only as Bowler Hat Guy and his assistant, a nasty flying hat that goes by the name of Doris. Dejected, Lewis goes up to the roof of the orphanage to sulk and encounters Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman), a kid about his age who claims to be a time cop from the future and who insists that Lewis go back to the school to fix the Memory Scanner. Of course, Lewis doesn’t believe him until Wilbur takes him on a ride into the semi-distant future in his time-travel machine.

Upon arriving in the future, the time-travel machine gets wrecked and Wilbur is forced to confess a couple of minor details that he didn’t quite mention earlier–stuff like the fact that he is actually just a kid and not a time cop, the only other time machine in existence was stolen by Bowler Hat Guy (mostly because of Wilbur’s negligence) and he seems to have taken it into the past specifically to abscond with the Memory Scanner. Wilbur’s plan is to keep Lewis completely under wraps until he can get the time machine repaired and return him to his own time before his dad, the incredibly successful inventor Dr. Cornelius Robinson, returns home but Lewis winds up meeting all the members of the extremely odd Robinson clan–so odd, in fact, that the one voiced by Adam West comes across as relatively sane by comparison. Meanwhile, back in the present, Bowler Hat Guy tries to patent the Memory Scanner as his own but when he realizes that he doesn’t know how it works, he returns to the future to trick Lewis into coming back and fixing it by promising to use the other time machine to let him see his mother at the moment she dropped him off at the orphanage. Needless to say, Bowler Hat Guy reneges on the deal and Lewis frantically struggles to save the day–present and future–while making some surprising discoveries about the true identities of Bowler Hat Guy, Wilbur and the mysterious Dr. Robinson.

Over the years, most efforts in 3-D filmmaking have tended to suffer from two fundamental problems. The first is the inescapable fact that, with the exception of the version utilized by IMAX, the various 3-D processes that have been trotted out over the years (especially that cheapo process utilized by Robert Rodriguez on “Spy Kids 3-D” and “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl”) have only rarely come close to living up to the advanced hype–viewers are usually left with little more than an unnaturally dark picture and a splitting headache. The second is that even if the 3-D effects are working properly, the filmmakers tend to spend so much time hurling things at the camera in an effort to show off that they forget to offer up a story interesting enough to stand on its own without the gimmick. Of course, most people dabbling in 3-D filmmaking tend to ignore these two problems because they know that enough people will flock to even the shoddiest 3-D extravaganza to put them into profit before the bad word-of-mouth gets around and the fad begins to die out. (As someone who has paid good money over the years to see such junk as “Comin At Ya,” “Treasure of the Four Crowns,” “Amityville 3-D,” “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” and the immortal porno title “Disco Dolls in Hot Skin,” I stand as living proof that this notion is 100% accurate.)

On a technical level, the film is really quite amazing and contains what may be the best 3-D imagery I have ever seen in a film outside of IMAX and I would go so far as to say that it even gives that process a run for its money. If you happened to be one of the lucky people who caught Disney’s 3-D revamping of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” last Halloween, you know how impressive their system is. If you didn’t catch that one and your only reference points for 3-D film exhibition are those flimsy cardboard glasses that are virtually impossible to wear if you already sport spectacles and even though are only really effective in just a handful of seats in your typical auditorium, you may be stunned by what you are in for here. The glasses are sturdy plastic contraptions that resemble sunglasses and which fit easily on the face, even if you were glasses as I do. The picture is bright, crystal-clear and lends such a genuine and all-encompassing sense of depth to the proceedings that after a while, your brain begins to accept it as the real thing and you don’t even really notice the effect unless the film is blatantly shoving something in your face (which does happen, though not as often as you might fear). From what I understand, “Meet the Robinsons” is playing in 3-D in about 650 theaters throughout America–the rest will be showing a 2-D version that is otherwise identical–and I would suggest that if it is at all possible to catch it in one of its 3-D engagements, you should try to do so because the end results are so impressive that they offer the first real suggestion that the format could become a viable storytelling format and not just a cheesy gimmick.

At the same time, “Meet the Robinsons” is so breathlessly exciting, funny and inventive throughout that even if you are only able to see it in its 2-D incarnation, you are still left with an incredibly entertaining film that falls flat only on the dimensional front. Right from the opening scene of Lewis absent-mindedly tinkering with his new invention while fellow orphan Goob (Matthew Josten) drones on and on in a hilariously deadpan manner, the film finds a nicely off-beat comic tone and maintains it for virtually the entire running time without ever having to rely on the dumb gross-out gags or dumber pop culture references that have become crutches for too many animated films in recent years. Amidst all the hilarity, the film also manages to gently work in a message about the importance of family–biological or otherwise–without ever getting too mawkishly sentimental. I also appreciated the fact that this is the rare contemporary animated film that seems to have hired its vocal cast based on who sounded right for the part instead of corralling a distracting array of big-name stars to do the squawking.

“Meet the Robinsons” isn’t a unquestioned masterpiece on the level of “Toy Story 2" or “Chicken Run”–the extended central section involving Lewis and the Robinson family is such a dizzying and dazzling high-point that the actual climax of the film feels slightly puny and underfed by comparison. And yet, I am willing to overlook such minor bumps because when it works, it does so in ways that will delight kids and adults alike. Younger audience will enjoy the frantic pacing and the goofy inventions while finding themselves amused the oddly endearing sight of the musical frogs. (Yes, musical frogs.) Adults will like the sophisticated by-play and the appealingly retro depiction of the future while finding themselves amused by the fact that those aforementioned frogs seem to have formed their very own amphibian Rat Pack. And both groups, I suspect, will spend the next few days with their extra-cool 3-D glasses not far from their faces

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15534&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/30/07 01:27:34
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User Comments

1/03/20 dupadoit i was frozen today 4 stars
12/11/08 Matt C. i thought it was pretty fucking awful. ill stick to the incredibles and wall-e. 2 stars
9/20/08 Annie G Entertaining without packing a lick of actual sense. 3 stars
5/11/08 Kate good, but i wouldn't pay to see it again, the little kids loved the fun of it though! 4 stars
3/30/08 Sam Ok ..story well below other masterpieces .. 3 stars
12/23/07 JM Synth Much more inventive than most contemporary animated features. Ugly people though. 4 stars
11/25/07 g webster okay,I guess.My kids liked it..some of the time 3 stars
11/08/07 Charles Tatum Pretty entertaining, certainly better than "Shrek" 4 stars
10/13/07 Private Only the final 15-20 minutes keep this from being below average. 3 stars
10/01/07 Andrew Kercher Hilarious, creative, inventive, innovative; great Disney fare with positive message. 5 stars
7/02/07 William Goss Overstuffed story nearly spoils several inspired elements. A blast in 3D. 4 stars
5/18/07 KingNeutron Adam West and Tom Selleck cameos FTW! Good family/funny film. 4 stars
4/10/07 Ole Man Bourbon Neat to see in 3-D. Some great animation at times. Story ok. 4 stars
4/09/07 Pokejedservo Its not perfect but it was genuinely entertaining. 4 stars
4/08/07 Darrtk Disney is back! 4 stars
4/02/07 Kisuta Fun family film. Seemed a little short. 4 stars
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  30-Mar-2007 (G)
  DVD: 23-Oct-2007

  30-Mar-2007 (U)
  DVD: 10-Sep-2007

  29-Mar-2007 (G)

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