film & game reviews, the retro way.
MEET THE ROBINSONS
Jon A. Bernstein
Released back in 2007, Meet The Robinsons is a CG-animated science-fiction film about a young orphan inventor who travels to the future and meets the most eccentric family out there. While it did quite well with critics, this was a commercial disappointment for Disney.
Having just acquired Pixar and made John Lasseter the animation department's chief creative officer, Disney was keen to get out of its relative rut following the likes of flop Home On The Range and the mildly successful yet critically panned Chicken Little. Unfortunately, Meet The Robinsons did little to improve things at the box-office and, despite the generally positive feedback, audiences didn't seem sold on a retro-styled sci-fi movie based on a lesser known children's book. Or, perhaps it was the animation style that didn't instantly resonate. Indeed, there's something about the look of early 3D animation that can be off-putting: characters look too plastic and smooth, they move like puppets, the camera angles are all over the place, the backgrounds lack texture and shadows.
By the time Bolt was released, a year later, Disney seemed to have perfected its CG but Meet The Robinsons still very much felt like something closer to Toy Story 2, which came out a full 8 years earlier. Based on that and the film's plot, audiences might have just expected another Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and decided to skip it altogether.
Meet The Robinsons, however, is a much better film than you'd expect and those who missed it back then actually missed something worthwhile. Beyond the familiar boy genius invents cool stuff scenario, there's a really clever time-travel story with a lot of heart and a surprising amount of depth. When young Lewis, who spent all his life in an orphanage, is taken to the future by a school friend and discovers a utopia in which a family welcomes him with open arms, it's like a dream come true. Things get complicated very soon, however, when a mysterious villain and his robotic bowler hat get in the way and the Robinsons appear to reject Lewis all of a sudden.
You wouldn't expect this movie to deal with deeper themes like letting go of the past and isolation but it does and Lewis' story packs an emotional punch that's well worth sticking around for, plus it's got some clever twists up its sleeve. The film is also proudly surreal and weird: the Robinsons are all extremely wacky, you've got singing frogs, a brainwashed dinosaur, a bowler hat dystopia... This is a much more creative, funny and heartwarming animated feature than people give it credit for, that's for sure.
Although the CG isn't quite as good as it could have been and the animation style itself is a little bland, Meet The Robinsons is an underrated sci-fi adventure with some fun characters, a sad yet uplifting story, lots of amusingly goofy moments and it's altogether very enjoyable.