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Big Hero 6 (2014)

| November 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

Big Hero 6, the latest animated adventure from Disney, illustrates one of the greatest assets and also one of the greatest set-backs of the studio’s recent animated product. It is created with perfect, loving details, but falters when it gets to the main story. Disney has historically been good at both, but recently the greatness of the details have not equaled a story that doesn’t feel weak and familiar. This has been the set-back of Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. That doesn’t make these movies bad, but they just seem to miss the freshness of storytelling.

Of all the recent Disney animated features Big Hero 6 is the most engaging. It’s a fun little movie that meshes a Pixar-style animated adventure with a palette borrowed from anime, while cashing in the billion dollar superhero juggernaut that the Disney studio is currently making possible. It is loosely based on an obscure Marvel comic book with a very pronounced Asian influence – though the movie still remains heavily Americanized.

The movie takes place in an unspecified future in a city called San Fransokyo. At this point in human history, the research and development of robotics is the latest work in technology and the rush toward progress has caught the interest of a pre-teen kid named Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter), a robotics wunderkind whose skills with metal and wires would make Tony Stark green with envy.

His older brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney) works in a robotics lab at his university and wants his kid brother to give up the back-alley robot fighting scene for better use of his talents. Hiro is convinced to follow in his brother’s footsteps when he gets a gander at his latest invention – an inflatable health care robot named Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit from “30 Rock”). Baymax is a marvel of character design, a white fluffy marshmallow that you just want to hug. He’s adorable without being cloying. He speaks in a metallic, matter-of-fact tone that elicits emotions through words, not inflections. His job is simple: Keep Hiro safe, and that makes for some great drama. For my money, this is the best pairing of man and beast since E.T. and their relationship is really quite touching.

Where the movie flounders is when it gets into the main plot. Without giving too much away, it’s your basic revenge plot. Hiro uses his tech know-how to reform some of his buddies into a junior Justice League. They’re out to stop a bad guy who wants to steal Hiro’s new invention for reasons that have to do with having been wronged in the past – blah blah blah. It’s not anything terribly original, and the last third of the movie is given over the kinds of bombastic stop-the-bad-guy plot that has been the wrap-up of the at least 90% of all blockbuster films for the last 15 years.

What is special in Big Hero 6 is the relationship between Hiro and Baymax. The tiny details given to their relationship make up the best parts of the movie – there’s a scene atop a floating wind turbine where the two enjoy a sunset. There are a dozen or so magical moments like that – the best of which are being spoiled by the commercials – and it is more fun to watch Hiro and Baymax just get through the day than watch them fight bad guys. There’s a bond between these two born from a family tragedy that besets Hiro early on, but it isn’t just a bland throwaway. It affects everything that he does, and also effects how Baymax responds to it. The tragedy builds their relationship, and allows Hiro to learn lessons of personal responsibility that don’t feel tacked on. It deserves praise for providing an anti-violence message. It’s doesn’t have the action heft of The Incredibles, but it’s entertaining and surprisingly moving.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.