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DVD Review: Meet the Robinsons

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Meet the Robinsons is a great film for family viewing. The rapid-fire pace of the plot, the totally understandable plot lines and character motivations, and the breezy dialogue are probably enough to keep younger minds (and older ones that sometimes struggle with such simplistic fare) occupied. But when a cool, futuristic world with strange machines and whacky people are thrown in, choosing Meet the Robinsons is a no-brainer.

The movie is the 46th animated feature from Walt Disney Studios. Although it definitely lacks the crispness of a Pixar production, the animation is fluid and colorful, but after seeing everything Pixar is capable of, I couldn’t help comparing one to the other.

One of the strange things about the movie is that it's adapted from a book that really isn't anything like the movie, save for the weird cast of family characters. The book is called A Day with Wilbur Robinson and was written by William Joyce. Lewis isn't even a character in this book, nor is the book set in the future. However, the plot centers around trying to find Grandpa's teeth, which is featured for a short time in the movie.

I immediately liked Lewis, the movie’s main character. When the story opened up with the young mother dropping baby Lewis off at the orphanage in the rain, the heartstrings  get tugged fiercely. This familiar scene drags the audience right in to the rest of the story.

As resident genius of the orphanage, Lewis inadvertently makes everyone’s life miserable to a degree. But he’s like an energetic puppy and wins the audience over. Not only that, but his attempts at creating inventions are laugh-out-loud funny. The peanut butter/jelly gun toaster is amazing, and a joke they reuse later in the film to great success.

Lewis knows he’s about to get too old for adoption, so he throws himself into his inventions again. He wants to build a memory projector that will allow him to reach into his own mind to see his mother and find out why she dropped him off at the orphanage. His teacher encourages Lewis to bring the device to the Science Fair. One of the best parts of the film is watching the students’ reactions to the unveiling of the inventions. Adults and kids will die laughing because Lewis is so earnest, yet so doomed to failure.

The Science Fair turns mysterious almost immediately. Wilbur Robinson begins stalking Lewis. When Wilbur’s caught by Lewis, Wilbur tries to pass himself off as a time cop and says he’s there to fix the past. He warns Lewis about the Bowler Hat Guy trying to ruin Lewis's invention, but Lewis is convinced that the reason his new invention failed is the same reason all the others failed, that he, Lewis, simply isn't good at inventing things.

To prove to Lewis that he’s telling the truth, Wilbur takes Lewis into the future. The movie really jets forward at this point. Of course, the boys don’t agree about things and the time machine ends up getting crashed. Wilbur expects Lewis to know how to fix it.

The action turns incredibly zany at this point as Lewis meets Grandpa Bud and is taken on a tour of the house. In this madcap section, the humor is over-the-top funny but laid my ten-year-old and I both to waste as we struggled to keep up with all the rapid-fire cuts from one scene to the next. This is truly great stuff, and works perfectly in the movie at this point.

Lewis ends up getting to stay for dinner and getting to meet the rest of the family, including Wilbur’s mom, Franny, who conducts a frog band. The frog band, although only a small part of the overall movie, is unforgettable. The lead frog acts and croons like Frank Sinatra, and leads the other frogs like a Mafia hard guy. One of the best scenes is when mini-Doris (the robotic hat that controls/leads Bowler Hat Guy) gets captured by the frogs and thrown into the back of a toy Cadillac.

The rest of the movie will probably be easy to figure out, even for the little people, but it’s still a wonderful trip to take on family night viewing. My youngster and I finished up the film and he immediately watched it again.

The headlong rush of the plot to get causes viewers to gloss over the great voice acting of some of the people involved with the film. Angela Bassett is wonderful as Mildred, the director of the orphanage. Her constant support of Lewis as he deals with his inventing bug and the fact that he can’t get adopted is great.  She even still manages to put a trace of exasperation into her delivery.

Goob, Lewis’s roommate, is a gem. I love him in his little league baseball uniform and talking about how much he stunk up the field. As a little league coach, I try not to let any kid on my team feel that way, but I know there are a lot of kids who end up feeling exactly like that anyway. 

Meet the Robinsons isn’t the best of the Disney films, but it’s definitely a welcome addition. In fact, Cornelius Robinson’s motto, “Keep moving forward,” comes from a speech Walt Disney himself made on several occasions to the creative minds that worked for him, and that's just what Walt Disney Studios is doing.

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