If there is anything to be said for the newest children’s DVD Meet the Robinsons is that it is unoffending. Funny a little, charming a little, somewhat challenging, but in today’s world, mostly harmless. There’s a lack of momentum for the duration of the film, even though the characters are very energized, but there seems to be a quality to the movie that’s been missing for a long time in kids’ movies. The main character is tender, yet strong, and the base of the story itself is very focused, emotional, and strong in building warm fuzzies toward family. Meet the Robinsons has pulp to it, even if it doesn’t have your child’s attention.
At the beginning of Meet the Robinsons there is a baby left at an orphanage by his mother. Fast-forward twelve years and we have the child, Lewis. Lewis is an unfortunate amateur inventor who has yet to be adopted and is getting himself prepared for turning thirteen (the magic number that means he probably will never have a family). With the notion that maybe his biological mother really did want him but couldn’t raise him, Lewis decides to build a machine to see deep into memory. Lewis now has hope to find his mother because he knows he saw her once as a baby and that image must be stored somewhere in his mind. Out of pure love, Lewis builds his machine and takes it to the school science fair. Once there, things go horribly wrong (as they usually do to his inventions) yet this time it is because two very different people from the future have come to take Lewis and his machine for two very different reasons. This covers about the first half-hour. See why your child is starting to stray in the attention department?
The complexity of the plot is probably too much for most children to take, yet it is important to the story, and if the complications weren’t there, then it wouldn’t be a very good movie overall. One person wants to destroy Lewis and the other doesn’t, but when you add in that these are people of the future, then you also have to put together where they fit in the past. Time travel is a complex theme to pitch to five-year-olds. To top it off, then there comes the premise of changing the past and altering the future. With Meet the Robinsons there’s just so much information to condense down to a childrens’ level and a shorter non-Peter Jackson time length to fit it into. A Back To the Future for kids, with singing frogs and a dinosaur is going to be hard on Junior if he has ADHD.
However, there are so many wonderful aspects to Meet the Robinsons it’s hard to criticize the film. The character of Lewis is so innocent and tender, but not fragile. He’s still a boy and does boy things. Likewise the “bad guy” is not over the top evil or horrible and, for a first, we see the troubled childhood of both the antagonist and the protagonist of the story, so the resolution of the story doesn’t have to be that they throw the evil person away off a cliff and tie a bow on the ending. Another absolute plus about this film is that there are no annoying characters or catch phrases. Inevitably in most movies like this there is something that you don’t care for in the theater and that exact thing will be the word, or facial expression, or line you hear out of your child for the next week. Meet the Robinsons doesn’t have this, so while it may not be the most memorable for your child, it’s wonderful for the parents.
At its heart Meet the Robinsons is a movie about possibilities and potential. It is set in its core belief to “keep moving forward” and for a long time there hasn’t been a childrens’ movie that brings that kind of true hope to the foreground. While other kids’ flicks are expressing bodily function humor or failures followed by triumph in sports, this movie is reaching within children to draw out the good things they have to offer their world. While it will probably never become one of those Disney “Classic” movies, Meet the Robinsons is solidly a modern version of what used to be a classic Disney movie.
The disc for Meet the Robinsons is packed with extras and is a wonderful compliment to the movie. There’s a lot of variety with what was chosen for the disc and this DVD is really what makes the movie shine. You can tell that the creators of the film “get” the film; they understand what they are doing and tastefully added special features with purpose. The last thing needed on a DVD is to throw something on there that doesn’t belong, but with the Robinsons they all amplify what the film is about.
First there are the Deleted Scenes preceded by an introduction to each scene and why it was cut from the film. What’s cool about these deleted scenes is that they aren’t final cut quality scenes, they’re rough cut, or black and white, or purely story board pictures, all paired up with the audio. These scenes push not only into the process of creating a story but also into the process of creating an animated film by showing the broken down parts to the tale.
To follow that up, we have “Inventions That Shaped the World” which is a segment about, duh, inventions that have shaped our world. Starting with the wheel and moving forward, this feature is a nice addition for the adults and parents that watch the film. Paired up with that is the “Family Function 5000” game where you mix and match, and mostly guess your way around the family that is the Robinsons. This game is tough because there are so many different characters and is sure to keep the kids glued to the TV.
On the disc are also a couple of music videos from songs played in the film. They're okay to watch, but not so exciting. More interesting is the section “Inventing the Robinsons” where the actual writer of the original book William Joyce talks about his family and his inspirations for writing the book which is now a movie. To see Joyce discussing his family and the details he gives about them and what things were like growing up it’s obvious where Disney drew it’s inspiration from to move the story along. Joyce is full of energy and wonder, and the film translates that very well.
Finally, the all-necessary audio commentary with director Stephen Anderson. Now here is a man that did more than made a movie and talk about it. He created a film with body and soul to it and speaks freely about his draw to tell the tale of this poor boy Lewis. Anderson being adopted himself tells how true to life Lewis’ search for family answers really is. This feature is about the most solid audio commentary out there with constant talk and discussion about the film and life as a whole. As it is with Meet the Robinsons the movie, where you get more than you expect out of the movie, the special features showcase, enhance, and respect the film they follow.