Sunday, April 08, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

Well, I vowed to review all movies I see in the theatre, so (sigh) I'll have to own up to having gone to see this one. In my defense, it was only because I took a little kid with me, and HE picked it, honest.

Speaking of kids, wow, what a great audience! No bullshit with them. When they like something that's going on onscreen, they LIKE it. They laugh their little asses off, and then one of them will scream out "Hey, I LIKED that!!!" Pretty badass.

Oh, but when they don't... first, there's this dangerous squirming sound, like ants getting ready for an attack. Then one or two of the bolder tykes will escape into the aisle murmuring "ahhh..." as he/she runs off to the exit. Once that happens, someone starts to cry. Man, they don't make movie critics like kids, seriously.

Well, with this movie, it didn't get to that point, but it got dangerously close. There was a lot of running around in the aisles, and some sniffles, but we all got through the movie able to more or less listen to the dialogue.

Actually, I'll admit it wasn't that bad. I mean, it had a heart, something I didn't expect, considering the previews. Deep down in that mess, there was a story there somewhere.

That was kind of the problem, though. I mean, the movie LOOKS like it was made for little, LITTLE kids, and those were the types in the theatre. We're talking kindergarten little, and those folks can't handle anything too intricate, I don't think (the squirming all took place over the more convoluted aspects of the story.) The movie only worked for them when it was all frenetic and kid funny, as in characters making silly faces and that sort of thing. There was a lot of that in there, and that carried over well for the younger ones in the crowd.

But what about us not so young ones? Well, like I said, the movie had heart. I'm a sucker for orphans, first of all, and the beginning of the film had a sort of Roald Dahl-esque feel to it that I thought was promising. I loved the idea of this genius orphan that was just ahead of his time and misunderstood, and I was totally into the addition of his bitter little roommate. How clever is that?!!! I thought that character in particular hit a nerve that should be explored a bit further in kid films, because I think there are a lot of Jan Brady-type kids out there that can sort of bond with a character that is not only overshadowed by an older and more talented child, but is actually hurt by that child in some way. It was cool that in the end of the film, Lewis realizes how his actions unintentionally hurt poor little Goob, and then went out of his way to help him out.

I wish then, that the film had been made a bit more linear so that that storyline could be clearer. The introduction of Lewis's child from the future was really confusing and messy. I mean, what? When he first appeared, I thought he was just some annoying asshole out to destroy Lewis's science project or something. It didn't help, either, that he was the sort of character that I absolutely despise in modern kid movies. You know, the type that's specifically put there for the older, "cooler" kids' benefit, complete with annoying looking clothes and hairstyle, spewing stale "cowabunga man!" type crap. HATE that.

To be fair, Lewis's kid from the future wasn't exactly like that, but his appearance and the way he was introduced didn't quite work. I'm sure there could have been a way for the older Goob to sabotage Lewis 's project, and then for Lewis to somehow figure things out and then follow Goob into the future (he was a genius after all, wasn't he?). Then, in the future, he could have made a cool friend (his son) and go about discovering his wonderfully strange family (the Robinsons were quite fun I must admit).

The movie had a solid theme: "keep moving forward". It went very nicely with the idea of Lewis getting over the fact that he was abandoned by his mother (in a sense, him not approaching his mother was a way of letting HER keep moving forward too) and with Goob getting over messing up that baseball game, and his bullied childhood (yeah, I loved the way that subject was very carefully touched upon, too).

You know, looking over what I've written so far, I think I actually liked Meet the Robinsons more than I thought. OK, maybe I did. But I think I fell in love with the POSSIBILITIES of it more than the actual movie.

Cuz like I said, the audience squirmed a lot. There were some really annoying "let's put this scene in so we could sell the video game/ride/dolls. Ugh. And though I'm not the type to ever suggest a movie should be dumbed down for a kid, I did think the plot was pretty convoluted, and having all the future characters revealed only at the very end did a disservice to the little ones. I think they would have understood the villain better if they knew it was Goob from the get-go. Same goes for the Lewis-meets-his future-son thing. Sure, time travel is pretty heavy stuff anyway, but why make it even harder for them to get it? And I mean, they've all heard of that stuff, and may have even seen Back to the Future. I just think the story would have worked better if the characters were clear from the very beginning, although the element of surprise actually did work for the minor characters, like Lewis's future wife and parents. That was actually very nice, sort of Wizard of Oz in that, when he goes back to the past, you see all these familiar faces and you're like, "Oh, YEAH, cool!"

Well like I said, the movie wasn't bad, but definitely works better as a could have been than what actually was. And by the way, I asked my nephew what he thought of the film, and his review was "I really liked the dog!" There you go.

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