You can’t accuse Disney of not trying new things these days…after the rather inspired idea of a video games homage in Wreck It Ralph we come to this somewhat Japanese anime inspired story following a young kid who yearns to follow in his elder brother’s footsteps and go to science school. He also so happens to be a genius at robotics. However following a disastrous turn of events said kid, Hiro finds himself befriending his brother’s invention instead and seeking out the answers to a mysterious accident at the local university.
At first I wasn’t really sure where this one was going, it felt like a weird mix of things and it’s tone was uneven. Not helped by a cast of supporting characters that either ticked all the clichés or were otherwise forgettable. Yes, we have the cool outsider girl, the bookworm, the stoner (!) and the token black guy. Yet it’s the friendship between Hiro and Baymax, his brother’s robotic inflatable nurse (not as sleazy as that sounds…) that makes for the heart of the movie, and even plot developments that turn the whole show into The Avengers meets Power Rangers don’t detract from what turns out to be rather emotional and feel good. Despite a quasi-future setting (in San Francisco – you know, where ALL movies are now set), the inventions by these kids seems so amazing and powerful that they defy logic. But this is a Disney movie so I’m guessing believability goes out of the window? This can’t excuse however a villainous plot that’s rather thrown together with a twist that just felt like it had been sneaked in by the writing room cleaning lady last minute.
Which is all a shame as aesthetically and script-wise this often shines. There’s some stand-out action scenes in the final act, and the in-jokes and banter between the characters got pretty funny. Baymax is a brilliant creation, part tech-demo for the animation gurus and also a really likeable presence. So another Disney to check out, if not quite as essential as some of their other movies.
I can’t say I’ve been all that drawn to Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson as a movie star and was never into American Wrestling. However this disaster action flick seemed like an easy choice for an evening’s entertainment, and hell – isn’t The Rock in everything these days?
He plays a Helicopter rescue officer who becomes embroiled in the search for his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and teenage daughter after a series of devastating earthquakes rumble through California. In the grand tradition of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich this is primarily an excuse for effects wizards to really go to town as we witness mass destruction, sky scrapers toppling and the hoover dam bursting … all done with some impressive CGI and excellent set design. It’s glossy, loud, intense and very exciting as we watch various individuals try and survive an event that is literally tearing the west coast of the united states apart. It wasn’t hard to get caught up in the story either, with The Rock harbouring regretful memories following the collapse of his marriage, and having to watch his wife move in with another guy (a slimy Ioan Gruffudd). Yet this is also where the story starts to get rather familiar.
Yes this is pretty clichéd stuff, the troubled hero trying to piece his family back together and it takes a cataclysmic event for him to realise what he’s missing. Also we get some awful stereotypes such as the typical Hugh Grant-like English lad who is clearly going to be a love interest for the (predictably) hot daughter. Add to this a scientist (Paul Giamatti) who nobody listens to at first (he may as well be Jeff Goldbum), and some very predictable near-miss almost deaths and – despite plenty of energy and quality effects – I was entertained but not at all surprised. It also get’s pretty crazy towards the end (that cruise ship bit…). Yet although failing to re-write the disaster movie rule book, and sticking a bit too rigidly to formula … for a solid two hours entertainment – I’d still say this is worth a watch. Oh and, The Rock wasn’t bad either.
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