Based on the book, "A Day with Wilbur Robinson" by William Joyce (which was adapted by a whopping 9 credited writers for this film), Disney's latest non-Pixar (although during the production of the film, Pixar merged with Disney and Pixar's John Lassetter is now overseeing Disney animation) animated feature is a step above their last ("Chicken Little"), but still a bit lacking in areas. The film focuses on Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry), a little kid who dreams of coming up with a brilliant invention. Tired of trying to get adopted after always finding out some way to miss up the meeting with his latest potential parents, orphan Lewis finally decides to focus his energy on inventing a device to pull out long-lost memories, such as ones of his mother.
On the day he's to show it, the device fails like the rest of his inventions and is taken by the mysterious Bowler Hat Guy (voiced by director Steven Anderson.) Yet, he also meets the mysterious Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman) on the same day, who proclaims himself to be from the future. While Lewis doesn't believe him at first, he quickly becomes a believer when Wilbur has them jetting off to the future, where he meets the rather hyperactive remainder of the Robinson clan.
Yet, there's still Bowler Hat Guy, who tries to pass off the memory scanner as his own invention and when he needs help, he has no one else to turn to aside from Lewis. Some of the elements of the movie seem a bit borrowed from the "Back to the Future" films (and a couple of very brief moments that take place in dark, rainy cityscapes that look like something out of "The Matrix"), but I have to say that I still found some of the film's few reveals to be surprising and entertaining.
The film's pacing is a little off, but not terribly so. The movie takes a little while to get going, and some of the elements seem a bit too slapsticky and standard. When the movie starts revealing that some of the main characters aren't who we thought they were, the story does start progressing down a more interesting path and the action (and a note: a few *brief* moments in the film's second half may be a bit scary to the youngest audience members) starts up. The movie even ends with a touching (yet not sappy) finale. The movie does have a few messages, but most of them are not delivered in a heavy-handed manner (just one is.)
The performances are excellent and the movie did a nice job rounding up a cast that, while not necessarily the biggest names, are right for the roles. The film's animation isn't dazzling, but it is above average and has an interesting, somewhat "Jetsons"-ish take on the look of the future. Overall, I liked this film, although the two halves are really quite different - the movie eventually builds towards a better second half, but the first half could have been tightened and crafted so that it doesn't feel quite so different from the second half.
VIDEO: "Meet the Robinsons" is presented by Disney in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality is generally excellent, as the bright, poppy animation looked crisp and clear throughout. Some minor edge enhancement appeared, but no artifacting or other issues were encountered. Colors looked bold, well-saturated and crisp, with no smearing. Black level also remained solid, as well.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Additionally, there is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Effects-Only soundtrack option, which allows viewers to appreciate the extensive sound effects work that went into the film. As one can expect from a futuristic animated film, there's plenty going on and the film's soundtrack is often moderately aggressive, especially in the more action-heavy second half, where the rear speakers were put to greater use. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, clear dialogue, and well-recorded effects.
EXTRAS: Director Steven Anderson offers up a very good commentary, starting with a discussion of his own experiences as an adopted child. The director also acts as his own co-star in the commentary, as the character Anderson voices in the movie - Bowler Hat Guy - sometimes makes appearances throughout the track. Otherwise, this is an informative, interesting discussion of the production process, from adapting the story to cast, visuals and other production issues. The moments with Bowler Hat Guy are a bit funny, but thankfully the gimmick doesn't wear out its welcome.
We also get a pair of featurettes ("Keep Moving Forward" and "Inventing the Robinsons", a trio of deleted scenes, an interactive game and a pair of music videos.
Final Thoughts: "Meet the Robinsons" is an uneven, but mostly enjoyable effort from Disney. The DVD presentation offers excellent audio/video quality, as well as a few informative supplements. Recommended.
The Film B-