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Big Hero 6—Movie Review

Big Hero 6—Movie Review

This may be the most unusual animated feature the Disney
studio has ever produced, a fanciful hybrid of traditional Disney-style
storytelling and Marvel Comics mythology. It’s a savvy mixture of cutting-edge
action, eye-filling scenery (in the detailed imagining of a city named San
Fransokyo), and a heart-tugging story with a likable 14-year-old boy in the
leading role.

Orphaned Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) is whip-smart but
headed onto the wrong path, using his smarts to gamble with dangerous
characters on the city streets. Then his older brother exposes him to what’s
going on at the university science lab. There, a group of likable brainiacs are
developing exciting new ideas, with the encouragement of a respected professor.
Hiro is energized and puts his mind to work on an invention all his own. Then
tragedy strikes, in time-worn Disney tradition. Hiro goes into a funk until a
tiny accident triggers the awakening of a robot his brother left behind: a
cuddly white marshmallow of a creature named Baymax. He’s been programmed to be
a health-care provider but soon becomes Hiro’s ally and protector, especially
when the boy (and his brother’s science lab pals) enter dangerous territory
going after a lethal villain.

The transformation of these sharp-minded friends—each with a
distinctive name and personality—into a band of superheroes seems almost unnecessary,
but that’s what happens. Accordingly, at that point the movie turns into an
elaborate if conventional comic-book adventure, played out on a giant canvas. Kids
won’t have a chance to get bored, but I was already connected to these
characters without their capes, spandex and super powers.

Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams have each put in about
twenty years with Disney; they know how to make every moment count and never
miss an emotional beat. The screenplay, credited to Robert L. Baird, Daniel
Gerson, and Jordan Roberts, is based (very loosely, I’m told) on the little-known
Marvel comic by Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle. I would be greatly remiss
if I didn’t mention production designer Paul Felix and art director Scott
Wattanabe. Big Hero 6 doesn’t look
like any animated film you’ve seen before.

I have some reservations about the way the story
resolves—and the abruptness of the finale—but despite those quibbles the movie
works, primarily because of Hiro, a hero worth rooting for, and Baymax, who is
irresistible. With characters that engaging, I’m happy to cut the film some
slack.

As a curtain-raiser for Big
Hero 6
, Disney is presenting a wonderful six-minute short directed by
Patrick Osborne called Feast. It
follows the life of a Boston Terrier as seen through his meals over a span of
years. Ingenious, artful, and very funny, this mostly-pantomime cartoon is
already in the running for an Academy Award as best animated short-subject. It
even makes good use of 3-D. What a treat!

         

          

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