|Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Starring: voices of
Angela Bassett, Tom Selleck, Harland Williams, Adam West, Laurie
Metcalf, Tom Kenny, Ethan Sandler
Director: Steve J. Anderson
If you see “Meet the Robinsons,” may I recommend taking a bathroom break before the movie starts. The movie is the standard 90-minute length of most animated movies, but before it started, they showed us, no joke, 35 minutes worth of trailers, ads, and a Disney cartoon from 1953. Thirty, five, minutes. And if those trailers are any indication of the quality of the movies they represent, this is going to be a long, long summer for parents. “Shrek the Third,” in particular, looks dreadful. But I hated the first “Shrek” with the white-hot fire of a thousand suns, so don’t listen to me. (Pssst. Listen to me.)
“Meet the Robinsons” is a strange little movie. There are stretches where it’s completely batshit crazy. Those are the good parts. The rest of the time, the movie feels strangely antiquated, plagued by lifeless dialogue and a shocking lack of humor. It’s undoubtedly a step up from “Chicken Little,” a movie I gave far more leniency than I should have at the time, but when compared to the work of Disney’s former business associates-turned-hostile takeover victims Pixar, “Meet the Robinsons” isn’t even playing the same sport as “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles” or “Monsters Inc.”
The story is about a boy named Lewis who was left at an orphanage as a baby. Twelve years later, the wildly inventive Lewis is still at the orphanage and has not found a family willing to take him in. After his latest invention creates chaos at the science fair, Lewis meets Wilbur, a 13-year-old who claims to be from the future and stresses that Lewis must keep working on the science fair invention until it works. Lewis thinks Wilbur is nuts, until Wilbur actually takes Lewis into the future, and shows him how the world will be if only he gets that invention to work. Looking to thwart their plans is Bowler Hat Man (fittingly, he looks like the sworn enemy of Dudley Do-Right), who wants to claim Lewis’ work as his own.
Allow me to play the role of Paula Abdul before I don the white/black/gray t-shirt of Simon Cowell: the movie’s message – it’s actually a two-pronged message – is a very good one: there is nothing wrong with trying and failing, and always take responsibility for your actions. In these ‘winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’ times, it is refreshing to see a movie aimed at children that focuses on the importance of the journey over the destination. Ironically, the movie itself disobeys those lessons on multiple occasions; just when it begins to show some backbone, it suddenly – and needlessly – reverts to the 1965 (read: safe) version of itself, and the shift in tempo and tone is palpable. It also violates the laws of nature when it comes to T. Rexes and their meatasaurus tendencies. Between this and “Night at the Museum,” T. Rexes are apparently giant lizard Labrador retrievers.
The kids will surely be dazzled by the oddball, futuristic nature of “Meet the Robinsons,” and they threw in some jokes, however dated, to keep their parents interested (five words: poorly dubbed Asian martial arts. Didn’t they do that in “Wayne’s World 2” 14 years ago?). But the movie would have been wise to follow its muse. After all, there’s nothing wrong with trying and failing, right? Of course, we know that Hollywood does not work that way, but had “Robinsons” actually tried and failed, the end result would have been far more interesting than this, and would have still had that sweet message to boot. Pity.
The single-disc release of “Meet the Robinsons” doesn’t offer a whole lot in the special features category, but it does include all of the basics, including a director commentary, a making-of featurette (“Inventing the Robinsons”), and deleted scenes. Also included is a short featurette on the history of inventing (“Keep Moving Forward) and the usual collection of Disney games.