Toon Talk: Meet the Robinsons
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by Kirby C. Holt
Meet the Robinsons
Walt DIsney Pictures
MPAA Rating: G
Danger, Wilbur Robinson
Following in the footsteps of the semi-successful Chicken Little comes Meet the Robinsons, the next - and last - of Disney's in-house computer animations pre-Pixar. And by the looks of it, John Lassiter and company couldn't have joined with the Mouse House soon enough.
Lassiter, who is credited as executive producer on MTR, actually came onto the production late in the game, but any help given proves to be too little, too late, for the resulting film (in theaters now) is a loud hodgepodge, a laughless comedy confection iced with a typical moralistic sheen of trite "family friendlyâ€? platitudes.
Based on the popular children's book "A Day with Wilbur Robinsonâ€? by William Joyce, we begin with the old Disney standby, the precocious orphan. Lewis (jointly voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry) is a brainy twelve-year-old with Bart Simpson hair and a knack for inventing. His latest creation, a jury-rigged contraption of junk and spare parts that allows one to view your own past, brings Lewis to the attention of the mysterious "Man in the Bowler Hatâ€? (voiced by the film's director, Stephen J. Anderson) who, despite his Snidely Whiplash appearance, is possibly the most bumbling moron ever to fill the slot of "villain". Coming to Lewis' aide is one Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman), an enigmatic teen with Wonder Twin hair, who we soon learn is from the future.
Seems Wilbur has traveled back into the past to retrieve Lewis so that they can thwart "Bowler Hat Guy'sâ€? evil schemes to alter the timeline. But when they arrive in "Todaylandâ€? (a clever nod to Disneyland's "Tomorrowlandâ€? that, along with everything remotely amusing in the film, is given away in the persistent ads shilling the movie), their time machine goes kaput, threatening Wilbur and his entire family of misfit eccentrics with, well, never existing.
Anderson directs MTR with a relentless pace, as if zooming along at warp speed will disguise how shallow it all is; Anderson also subscribes to the Airplane! school of comedy, wherein you throw as many gags at the audience as possible, hoping that something sticks. None of them do, most critically where it concerns this so-called family of oddballs. The members of the burgeoning Robinson clan are mostly reduced to one trait each that are either simply not funny (One races trains! One wears his clothes backward!) or are borderline sick (a morbidly obese chap trapped in a Barcalounger; a fellow who claims he is married to - ew - a wooden hand puppet). The film insistently informs us that "Gee! These guys sure are wacky!â€? But it is really just weirdness for weirdness sake, and hardly makes them the least bit endearing, let alone believable. When Lewis exclaims his desire to be adopted by the Robinsons, one not only questions his safety, but his sanity.