Stephen Anderson | 91 mins | streaming (HD) | 1.78:1 | USA / English | U / G
Disney’s 47th Animated Classic comes from their weak ’00s period, after the end of the so-called Renaissance and before what’s apparently been dubbed the neo-Renaissance (presumably no one could think of a synonym). This hails from the tail end of that lamentable era, though, so there are signs of recovery: Meet the Robinsons isn’t bad, just mediocre.
Loosely adapted from a children’s book, the story sees orphan boy-genius Lewis invent a machine to display your memories, which is stolen by the moustache-twirlingly-evil Bowler Hat Guy. Then he meets Wilbur Robinson, who tells Lewis that Bowler Hat Guy is from the future, where they promptly set off for, and where Lewis does indeed meet the Robinsons, a crazy family of crazy people.
Along the way, the film manages some funny moments… the entirety of which are in the trailer. The “Todayland” sight gag and the subtitled bit with the T-rex: that’s your lot. Elsewise, Lewis and Wilbur are decent enough protagonists, but “decent enough” is about the extent of their likeability. On the bright side, the film at least functions when it keeps them in focus: the villain is mostly underwhelming, meaning things drag when centred on him for too long, and there are just too many Robinsons — the montage where we meet them all begins to feel endless. They’re too one-note, and of too little consequence in their brevity, to be of much interest.
The time travel element of the plot is weakly thought-through. It’s not the point of the film, which is more about family ‘n’ stuff, but it’s central enough that it robs the already-underpowered climax of much weight — you’re too busy thinking “wait, does that make sense?” to be invested in events. Finally, the animation style has aged badly, now looking plain and under-detailed.
Meet the Robinsons is not a Chicken Little-level disaster, but if you want a computer-animated movie about a child inventor, there are at least two much better options, and I hear the other one about a time travelling kid is pretty good too. Apparently nearly 60% of this was re-made after John Lasseter became chief creative officer at Disney and had some suggestions — what’s the betting that’s where most of the best bits came from? And I’d also wager that explains why Disney’s next film, Bolt, was their true emergence from the creative doldrums.