Movie #80 2021: Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Meet the Robinsons is a rarity for Disney. Not only is it a standalone movie with no sequels to its name, but the majority of producers, writers and the director have relatively little to do with the company outside of this movie. In comparison to say Brad Bird, who directed Ratatouille and both Incredibles movies whilst also having credits for movies such as Up and Inside Out, that’s definitely an anomaly in the Disney multiverse.

Alas, this movie didn’t do so well at the box office, so maybe that has something to do with it. The New York Times even described Meet the Robinsons as one of the “worst animated features issued under the Disney label in quite some time.” Ouch. As you’d expect, I was sceptical.

The premise is pretty simple: a young orphan named Lewis is an aspiring inventor who is constantly trying to find his birth mother. He sets out to recover a time machine that has been stolen by dastardly villain “The Bowler Hat Guy” in order to get his new found friend Wilbur back to the right time, and ends up accidentally travelling back to his time with him. A family named the Robinsons take him in, and Wilbur vows to help Lewis fix the time machine so he can return home.

Needless to say, the plot is a bit thin and waffly. But that’s not to say there aren’t some of your standard Disney-style tropes along the way. As always, the film comes with a useful message: “Keep moving forward.” Sometimes the simplest advice is the best advice, and Disney have a long history in presenting simple yet fundamental ideas in a way that kids can digest.

On to the technicalities of the feature. Some of the animation here (okay, quite a lot of it) is extremely clunky but that’s kind of… part of its charm? However, whilst the colours and the vibrancy are wonderful, sometimes the backgrounds seem plain and almost forgotten about. What I do like is that it’s different in style to other Disney outings, and the homage to old Kung Fu movies at the dinner table? Best sequence of the entire film. 

In a relatively poor effort as pacing, it all takes a while to get going but then it spices up a bit. In truth, my mind wandered away from the story several times because the tempo and the narrative seemed a bit all over the place, but the second half is much stronger and comes complete with funnier jokes. And the plot twist(s)? Absolutely brilliant and atypical of animated films. At least it has an interesting overarching narrative, unlike The Croods for example. 

Weirdly, the main characters (the two white boys) were my least favourite characters due to their inherent dullness, but Goob is the cutest thing ever and the villain was brilliantly written. Those teeth? I will have nightmares about them, that’s for sure.

Overall, I just wish the first half was stronger on the entertainment front because it’d have been a sturdy 4 Q film if so. I understand there was a lot of set up needed, but if you’re going to do that you have to make it exciting or funny. Or both. Sadly, this was both hit and miss on both fronts.

Meet the Robinsons is available to stream on Disney+ and Sky Cinema in the UK.

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