While the reviews for Disney’s newest animated feature film have been generally positive, there have been a few (most notably the New York Times), that have taken a decidedly harsher view of Meet the Robinsons.
It really represents a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.
Meet the Robinsons is quirky, frantic at times, and clearly unconventional. It is also fresh and original. It has so many of the qualities that countless critics found missing in the numerous animated features that seemed to be constantly falling out of the sky over the last year. So when the film is described as “. . . surely one of the worst theatrically released animated features issued under the Disney label in quite some time,” such comments bear a note of exaggeration with fair degree of malicious intent.
The film chronicles Lewis, an orphan and scientific genius, and his time traveling adventures with Wilbur Robinson and Wilbur’s eccentric family of the future. The story does not by any means take the form of a smooth and linear narrative. Much of the movie is a disjointed bumpy ride, where the storytelling can sometimes be as off kilter as its cast of characters.
But ultimately that it what Meet the Robinsons is all about--happy, energetic spontaneity, with a very direct emphasis on fun. Director Stephen Anderson took to heart the story’s oft-repeated mantra of “Keep Moving Forward.” At the same time, the film refreshingly does not pander to the current entertainment climate that requires flatulence-based humor and PG-13 innuendos to effectively reach all the target demographics. It is unapologetic in its old fashioned, yet never over the top sentimentality.
And it is a healthy dose of that sentimentality that sneaks up and emotionally wallops you by the film’s conclusion. Personally, I didn’t see it coming. And that is why I ended up truly loving the movie. It surprised me on a level that was wholly and totally unexpected, with a heartfelt finish that reminded me of what Pixar accomplishes so well in just about all of their films. Yet it is not difficult to understand, in our popular culture which has become increasingly cynical and fueled constantly by internet negativity, why many critics and like-minded viewers would reject the Robinsons’ positive and idealistic message.
Enhancing the experience of Meet the Robinsons tremendously was its Disney Digital 3D format. The process was nothing short of amazing. It was my first exposure to the new digital-based process that utilizes circular rather than linear polarization, and in turn results in stronger more vibrant colors and an almost total elimination of “ghost images.”
An added bonus for most, but a near-religious experience for myself, was the presentation of the 1953 Donald Duck short Working for Peanuts. Made originally in 3D at the height of the format’s post-war wave of popularity, it was a joy to see it restored to a big-screen theatrical presentation. While the cartoon had enjoyed a brief run in the late 1980s as the pre-show for the Magic Journeys movie at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, that small scale presentation did not do it justice. Here's hoping that Adventures In Music: Melody, the company's only other theatrical 3D film, will accompany a future Disney Digital 3D release.