Review: Meet the Robinsons

Director: Stephen J. Anderson
Viewed: January 31, 2008
Format: DVD – Disney (2007)

C - Yet another installment of “Children’s Movies that Do Not Suck. Unless They Do.”

I was pleasantly surprised by this somewhat throwaway Disney title. I rented it for my students to get through a dreary winter afternoon. When I announced the title of the movie I’d rented, I learned that most of the kids had seen and loved it. This sort of recommendation can go either way. It either means the movie was terrible, childish, and gross, or it means the movie was great and had the universal appeal of a Ratatouille or Beauty and the Beast. Happily, Meet the Robinsons falls under the latter category.

The reason the movie did not do better is most likely due to its faulty and somewhat confusing plot. The beginning is good, and the closing revelations are gleefully funny and head-slappingly clear in light of the early scenes. The middle was a muddle of futuristic sight-gags meant to keep the kids on board while they regroup to move on to the next faulty plot point. Don’t get me wrong—those futuristic sight gags were actually quite witty and fun, most of them taking place in the Robinsons’ home.

The Robinsons are a family of inventors, and we are led twisting and turning through their home full of inventions and quirky family members. There are swing-singing frogs, half-men/half-potted plants, and talking dinosaurs. It’s easy to see why kids love the movie. The “bad guy” (because no Disney movie is complete without one) is a character called “Bowler Hat Guy.” Bowler Hat Guy is a sort of Snidley Whiplash for 2007: a sniveling, silent-film-villain type who hates the main character for some reason unknown to us until the end. I found Bowler Hat Guy the funniest character in the movie. He is the sort of villain who desperately wants revenge, but is too inept to do so. His master plan for revenge involves egging a company’s building and toilet-papering their trees. His origins are equally hilarious, and probably the most entertaining part of the movie.

The movie sticks to the typical “time travel” premise. Lewis, the main character, is an orphaned child who decides to build a time machine so he can see his birth mom. In a chain of events (that as I said are both amusing and confusing) he ends up in the future with his time machine broken, and in flight from Bowler Hat Guy. Then some stuff happens, and there’s a happy ending. You know, Disney style.

The movie also had a nice, simple, unique message for the kids. Even if you’re a weirdo, brainiac, or orphan, embrace it because even weirdo brainiac orphans can contribute to society. Something like “Be Yourself,” but with a nice twist of “Go for Your Dreams No Matter How Crazy” and a touch of “Be Proud of Who You Are.”

This is a children’s movie that does not suck much. If you have kids and are looking for a painless and somewhat entertaining movie to watch with them, I recommend Meet the Robinsons.

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