14 December, 2014

Review: "Big Hero 6" (****)

The unlikely band of heroes that make up the "Big Hero 6."

I saw “Big Hero 6” all by my lonesome on a rainy Saturday morning. I didn’t have high expectations for this film. Why? I don’t exactly know. And I didn’t even bother asking any of my friends to go with me (They all would have laughed and said no. Why would they have said no? I don’t exactly know that either.). “Big Hero 6” was, to my pleasant surprise, an engaging, emotionally and comically driven adventure story, that I found to be extremely enjoyable. “Big Hero 6” isn’t a movie that demands a big screen, but if you want to see the gorgeously rendered, futuristic world of San Frantokyo in all it’s detailed glory, than you may want to run out and catch it while it’s still in theaters.

The films starts with Hiro (voiced by newcomer Ryan Potter), a teen-genius, wasting his smarts and time in the underground world of (ro)bot fights. His older brother, Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney), on the way to a promised bot fight, detours and takes Hiro to his robotics lab at the local tech university. Hiro falls in love with the lab, with the idea of going to school to invent, and with the seemingly limitless capacities of having your own lab. And it’s here, in the lab, where we meet Tadashi’s four colleagues, all of whom will soon join Hiro’s unlikely band of crime-fighters. It’s here, too, that Tadashi introduces Hiro to Baymax, a robotic healthcare companion.

Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit of "30 Rock" fame), a non-threatening marshmallow-like robot, was invented specifically to help and heal people, a quality emphasized by his puffy, huggable appearance. This was a very nice, very welcome change of pace from all the other kinds of robot movies that are out in the world now, the kinds of movies where the robots used as tools to win wars and act as weapons and are very threatening. Baymax is the exact opposite of that.

Soon after all of these introductions are made, Hiro applies to school, invents the microbot (a malleable tiny robot that when placed with thousands of other microbots is capable of linking together to create any arrangement imaginable), and finally, has discovered his path in life. But then tragedy strikes. Hiro’s older brother, Tadashi, is tragically killed in a fire and all of his microbots are lost to the flames.

Hiro, understandably, is devastated. He’s in a slump that even Tadashi’s schoolmates and his Aunt Cass (played by the laugh-grabber Maya Rudolph) can’t shake him out of. Enter Baymax. Hiro stubs his toe and actives Baymax, and together they discover that the fire that killed Tadashi wasn’t an accident and that his microbots weren’t burned but stolen in a wild and whirling attempt at revenge.

And in come the other four crime-fighters that comprise the “Big Hero 6.” These are the nerdy misfits worked alongside Tadashi in the school lab. We have a woman-proud, speed cyclist called GoGo Tamago (voiced by Jamie Chung), a laser-blade inventor nick-named Wasabi (voiced by Damon Wayans Jr.), a chemistry whiz named Honey Lemon (voiced by Genesis Rodriguez), and last we have Fred (voiced by T.J. Miller), a shaggy-haired, beanie-wearing goofball interested only in the fringiest sciences. This ill-fitted, unassuming group of heroes is my favorite part of this film. They are not super in any sense of the word; they don’t have special powers, their origin stories are relatively ordinary. It’s their brains that make them super. “Big Hero 6” says that being brainy is cool. These ordinary people use their hard-earned brain power to change the world; it’s every nerd’s fantasy.

The beautifully rendered fictional world of San Fransokyo.
There’s a certain sense of oversentimentality to this film, but I think that this sappiness is warranted. “Big Hero 6” is a children’s movie derived from a relatively obscure Marvel comic, and it does a great job of introducing children to adult themes and ideas: death, failure, revenge, love, loss, sadness. And I think the bloated sentimentality works, too, because “Big Hero 6” isn’t highlighting the over-tired, over-saturated romantic kind of love that we’re used to seeing in children’s movies. Disney, very recently, has started to explore the layers and dynamics of familial love – sisters (“Frozen”), and now here with “Big Hero 6,” brothers.

I’d give “Big Hero 6” 4 out of 5 stars; it’s a wonderful children’s movie and a gorgeous piece of work. And I think I talked about this in another review, but I think the best kinds of children’s movies should be able to be appropriated and fitted to the adult palate. “Big Hero 6” totally fits the bill.

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