Film review: Disney’s Big Hero 6 brings the cute

Disney puts the Marvel comic character Big Hero 6 on-screen to the delight, and possibly the chagrin, of animated film fans. Publicity photo. Disney puts the Marvel comic character Big Hero 6 on-screen to the delight, and possibly the chagrin, of animated film fans. Publicity photo.

In what has already been a surprisingly stellar and abundant year for family entertainment and superhero flicks, casual moviegoers could be forgiven for viewing Disney’s decision to throw its hat in the ring with Big Hero 6, a film that attempts both genres at once, as being driven more by cold number-crunching than good storytelling. After all, this is a mega corporation whose primary goal at the moment appears to be making up for its past race and gender insensitivities while acquiring beloved franchises to serialize. On top of that, some loyal comic fans might be horrified at Big Hero 6 for taking an established (if obscure) Marvel property, retooling it for a younger demographic, and then releasing it as a Disney rather than Marvel film.

But five minutes into Big Hero 6, even the most stubbornly cynical viewer will get hooked by the film’s undeniable sweetness, good nature and stunningly effective comedy. Set in the fictional San Fransokyo—a stylish hybrid between San Francisco and Tokyo that works so well it requires no further explanation—we follow 14-year-old robotics whiz Hiro Hamada.

When we meet Hiro, he’s wasting his brilliance on hustling gamblers out of their money in illegal battle bot tournaments, but is challenged by his hardworking brother Tadashi to apply his skills academically. Following a tragic accident during Hiro’s exhibition at the university, his newfound optimism loses steam until he is befriended by Tadashi’s adorable, inflatable health care robot Baymax. After discovering an evil scheme related to the accident, Hiro, Baymax and Tadashi’s former colleagues join forces to stop a mysterious masked man in possession of Hiro’s invention.

Produced by Pixar bigwig John Lasseter and based on a preexisting Marvel series, Big Hero 6 sees Disney stepping out as more than the parent company of its two most lucrative possessions, and to great effect. For the first time in decades, momentum is on Disney’s side with Frozen and the well-
meaning, if flawed, Maleficent. This new, hip Disney doesn’t want to be seen as a Starbucks that rolls into town, buys your favorite coffee shop, then shuts it down when things get unprofitable. Big Hero 6 shows this unprecedented awareness of public sentiment and changing demographics with a refreshingly diverse cast of characters whose sympathetic edge is never dulled by cartoonish behavior.

The relationship between Hiro and Baymax takes center stage, borrowing heavily from Lasseter’s experience in balancing adorable, comedic and dramatic in equal measure. A particularly inspired bit comes when Baymax runs low on batteries and must recharge, yet Hiro has to sneak him in without his aunt catching on, recalling the famous drunken E.T.-Elliott with a terrific sense of physical comedy. This same balancing act of audience expectation while charting its own path can be seen in other sequences that feel familiar yet never redundant, including training montages and action sequences that (for a change) make spatial sense.

Disney and Marvel may be headed for an end to their unprecedented hot streak, but not just yet. Big Hero 6 is worth the investment even for those weary of comic book and cute family films.

Playing this week

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Before I Go to Sleep
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Big Hero 6
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Book of Life
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Dear White People
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Fury
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Gone Girl
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Interstellar
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

John Wick
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Judge
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Laggies
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

The Maze Runner
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Nightcrawler
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Ouija
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Pride
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

The Skeleton Twins
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

St. Vincent
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

This Is Where I Leave You
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Movie houses

Regal Downtown Mall
Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
244-3213

Posted In:     Arts

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