Big Hero 6

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Cast:
Ryan Potter as Hiro Hamada (voice)
Scott Adsit as Baymax (voice)
Jamie Chung as Go Go Tomago (voice)
T.J. Miller as Fred (voice)
Genesis Rodriguez as Honey Lemon (voice)
Damon Wayans Jr. as Wasabi (voice)
Maya Rudolph as Aunt Cass (voice)
James Cromwell as Professor Robert Callaghan (voice)
Alan Tudyk as Alistair Krei (voice)
Charles Adler as Yokai (voice)
Daniel Henney as Tadashi Hamada (voice)

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams

Summary:
Cool production design and a fun, unique inflatable robot make “Big Hero 6” worth checking out, but a predictable storyline may make it a tad boring for some adults.

Story:
In the city of San Fransokyo in an alternate world, Hiro Hamada is a boy genius with a gift for building robots. Unfortunately, since his parents died, he has completely lacked direction in his life. But when he falls into a ring of illegal robot fighting, his older brother Tadashi Hamada decides to intervene. He takes Hiro to a local university where he meets the members of a scientific think tank led by Professor Robert Callaghan. He also sees what his brother has been working on – a medical robot by the name of Baymax.

Totally inspired by his peek into this scientific nirvana, Hiro Hamada becomes obsessed with getting admitted into the school. To do so, he decides to build a robotics project so revolutionary that Callaghan will ask him to join. Unfortunately, his invention proves to be too successful. A mysterious kabuki masked villain steals Hiro’s invention and begins an unstoppable crime spree in the city. Hiro then goes on a mission to stop the villain, but he’s going to need a little help from his friends and a lot of help from science to save the day.

“Big Hero 6” is rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements.

What Worked:
There are two really noteworthy things about “Big Hero 6.” The first is the production design for San Fransokyo. It has a unique blend of San Francisco with a heavy futuristic Japanese influence. (Did Japan win World War II in this world or what?) The result is a less gritty, more optimistic version of the world of “Blade Runner.” There are elaborately decorated wind turbines that look like Japanese kites. There are sumo-like robot fights. There is Japanese neon all over buildings, but with San Francisco’s trademark cable cars, Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. The end result is a great look that is both familiar and otherworldly. It is some of the better production design in a 2014 movie.

The other noteworthy thing is the robot Baymax. He’s unlike any other robot in movie history. He’s inflatable which makes him soft and lovable. It also sets up all sorts of fun jokes about his bounciness, tendency to pop, and rotund figure. Yet when he’s upgraded for combat, he kicks serious butt. Combine that with a naiveté and a desire to heal and you have a character that feels really alive despite following a pre-set series of commands. He’s also the big hit for young boys and girls alike.

But the best thing about “Big Hero 6” may be the fact that it shows kids that science can be cool. Each of the characters specializes in a different field of study. They all put their discoveries to practical use. And while they do have scenes where the characters solve complex technical problems in a matter of hours, they also show that there’s a trial and error process with making breakthroughs. There will be frustrations and many more failures than successes. You just need to be patient and attack the problem from a different angle. Teaching a kid that is as important as getting them interested in science to begin with.

Be sure to stay through all of the credits for a bonus scene well worth waiting for. I won?t spoil it here, but it’s a great scene worthy of “The Incredibles” that any comic fan will love.

On an additional note, the short cartoon at the beginning of the film called “Feast” is also a lot of fun. It follows a puppy living with a bachelor all the way through his master’s relationship with a young lady and the beginning of a family. It hit home with me as my family had a cat that we got at the beginning of our relationship, had through the early years of marriage, and into the arrival of our first kids. And yes, pets reap the benefits of food dropped on floors. (My wife did ruin the ending of the animated short by saying, “And then it dies.” Totally killed the moment.) The animation is also an impressive mix of 2D style with 3D computer animation. It’s a great merging of what appears to be multiple animation techniques and great storytelling.

What Didn’t Work:
“Big Hero 6” is based on a Marvel comic by the same name. Never heard of it? Well, most comic readers haven’t either. And if you do manage to find it, you quickly realize they have very little in common. (The comic features Wolverine villain “Silver Samurai” and has no fluffy inflatable robot.) While it may not be a familiar comic, the themes in it are very familiar. They’re a little too familiar, actually. It ends up being a very standard comic origin story that’s very easy to predict. In about 10 minutes, you can identify a character that’s going to die. Almost as soon as the masked villain is introduced, you know exactly who it is. While this is perfectly acceptable to kids who haven’t seen this tale told a thousand times, it is a bit tiresome for any adult that correctly predicts where the story is going. As soon as the story loses you, all you have left to enjoy is the fight scene choreography and cool production design.

Unfortunately, everything else about the film is simply mediocre. The voice cast is adequate, but there are no standouts. The 3D animation is nice, but nothing noteworthy. The music is just background noise without any memorable themes.

The Bottom Line:
If you have some young children and pre-teens that you need to entertain for a couple of hours, “Big Hero 6” will fit the bill. While predictable, it is fun and worth checking out on the big screen.