Big Hero 6

November 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung
Directed by: Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) and Chris Williams (“Bolt”)
Written byRobert L. Baird (“Monsters University”), Daniel Gerson (“Monsters University”) and Jordan Roberts (“You’re Not You”)

As part of Disney’s never-ending drive for world domination, the giant company acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for an astounding $4 billion. While Disney has since raked in the cash from the unstoppable force that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they have yet to dive into the Marvel catalog to make films geared at younger kids. With “Big Hero 6,” Disney finally takes the leap and adapts a Marvel property under the Disney moniker.

In a hybrid of cities called San Fransokyo, a teenaged robotics fiend named Hiro (Ryan Potter) finds himself hustling people in robot fights for cash. Destined to get him into something greater, his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) convinces him to apply to the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. When an tragic event happens that changes everything for Hiro, he decides to band together with his school friends and a healthcare assistant robot named Baymax to form a superhero crew to try exact revenge on the supervillain Yokai.

One great quality of “Big Hero 6” is its ability to impressively set the table for the events to come. First and foremost, and in typical Disney fashion, it is able to create palpable emotion with enough respect to be handled by smaller children while being affective to adults. Beyond that, the film’s greatest moments come as we get to know Baymax. As an inflated and clumsy vinyl robot, Baymax comes to life in hilarious sequences of dialogue free physical comedy. He’s extremely ungraceful and maneuvers around objects so slowly and carefully that watching him dawdle around is pure, unadulterated, adorable joy and by far the best element of the film. There’s certain sweetness to Baymax (voiced wonderfully by Scott Adsit) and his unbridled desire to make Hiro feel better that fosters the best relationship of the film, even in its weaker moments.

The film takes a bit of a turn, however, when Hiro decides to seek revenge and turn him and his group of science geek friends into superheroes. It is here where the film becomes a bit generic and less unique. The initial motivation for Hiro manages to become a bit lost and even motivation during the turn involving the villain is a little difficult to wrap one’s head around. There are nuggets of great moments to be found, namely a sequence in which Baymax tries out flying for the first time, but the superhero story in the film feels a little standard, which is surprising given the connection to Marvel.

In fact, the most surprising element of “Big Hero 6” is just how little of Marvel’s fingerprints are present. Sure, some of the action sequences involving the characters in superhero are fun to watch, but most of them are formulaic enough to be thrown together by any studio. The same can also be said for the narrative of the film as the superhero storyline comes front and center and falls into the same beats seen in most origin stories. Despite its shortcomings, “Big Hero 6” is sweet, funny and adventure-packed enough to be an entertaining, albeit underwhelming experience.

Bolt

November 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman
Directed by: Byron Howard (debut) and Chris Williams (debut)
Written by: Chris Williams (“The Emperor’s New Groove”) and Dan Fogelman (“Cars”)

Leave it to Pixar to inject some much-needed imagination into the recent animated efforts of Walt Disney Studios. As the first animated feature entirely under the watchful eye of John Lasseter (chief creative officer of both studios and director of “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life”), “Bolt” may not win best-in-show, but he’s definitely a charmer.

In an opening scene shot like a canine version of “The Incredible Hulk” or “Spider-Man,” we meet the titular American White Shepherd, who is the superhero star of his own TV show. Not only can Bolt (John Travolta) run at lightning speed, he can also shoot laser beams from his eyes, lift cars between his teeth, and flatten anything in his path with a startling superbark. Eat your heart out Underdog!

While Bolt honestly believes it is his mission to protect his owner Penny (Miley Cyrus) from the sinister Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell) and his band of futuristic foot soldiers, the TV show’s director (James Lipton) insists the entire production crew and actors continue to lead Bolt to believe that he really is a superdog. A bit reminiscent of “The Truman Show,” everyone’s in on the intricate scheme and is able to shoot each episode without Bolt’s knowledge by using guerilla-style camerawork and special effects. The initial premise might seem outlandish (especially for a dog who always seems on script), but for argument’s sake, it works.

But when the director decides to change the show’s format because of low ratings and make each episode end in a cliffhanger, Bolt doesn’t understand what’s happening when shooting wraps one day without the usual defeat of his nemesis. Still believing Penny is in trouble, Bolt escapes his trailer on the studio lot and ventures off to save his “person.” But as Buzz Lightyear discovers in “Toy Story,” using superhero powers during real-world scenarios isn’t too encouraging for the psyche when they fail to produce the same results as in the fantasy.

Coming to the realization he might not be a gene-spliced pup after all, Bolt meets Mittens (Susie Essman of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), a stray cat with abandonment issues who helps him learn what it is to be a normal dog by teaching him how to fetch, dig, and stick his head out the window, and Rhino (Mark Walton), a hyperactive fanboy hamster who religiously watches Bolt’s show on the “magic box” and secretly wishes to become his butt-kicking action sidekick.

Apart from the scene-stealing furry rodent who rolls around in a plastic ball for most of the film and says hilarious things like “I’ll snap his neck” or “I’ll get the ladder” with total seriousness, there are plenty more laughs and soft-hearted moments that make Bolt one of the more memorable family-friendly movies of the year. Sure, “WALL-E” will probably scavenger up most of the animation awards, but there’s no shame for other animated films to aim for silver.