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As the resident parent on Cinema Blend’s editorial staff, I’m often asked by families which theatrical releases are worth the (expensive) trip to the multiplex. Lately, picking have been admittedly slim, with mature movies like Nightcrawler, Fury, Gone Girl and John Wick eating up screen space. (This is as good a time as any to chastise the parents we saw at a recent Gone Girl with their roughly-seven-year-old son in tow. I wonder how they explained this scene on the car ride home?)
That changes this weekend when Walt Disney Animation teams with Marvel for the winning Big Hero 6, a movie that’s receiving terrific reviews (91% on Rotten Tomatoes), though most of the critiques are overlooking the main reason why I think BH6 soars higher than its animated counterparts in Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph or the usual Marvel output. Yes, the action is swift and kinetic. Yes, Baymax is an adorable standout character who likely will peddle copious amounts of toys this holiday season. But Big Hero 6 celebrates intelligence, creativity, scientific exploration, ingenuity and classroom camaraderie more than any other family film has in recent memory, and it’s for that reason I think every parent should plan a family trip to the theater to see this gem on screen.
Big Hero 6 ultimately is an origin story for a crime-fighting squad that doesn’t come together until the film’s final confrontation with the Big Bad (whose identity I’ll leave for you to discover). And like all superhero teams – from the X-Men to The Avengers – the members of Big Hero 6 are gifted outcasts, extremely talented loners who come together because they share a common interest. But Big Hero 6 stands apart because that common interest in education, learning, and knowledge. Young Hiro’s inspiration is his older brother, Tadashi, an incredible inventor who lures his sibling away from Bot Fighting and introduces him to the Geek Squad at his neighborhood tech college. Though Hiro’s a closet genius, he’s wasting his talents creating combat robots. And while Hiro rebels against his older brother’s intelligent urgings, when he finally realizes how amazing the classes at the college can be, Hiro’s obsessed with attending.
That spirit of invention, that desire to construct and match wits with an enemy, propel the action in Big Hero 6 -- giving young audience members terrific role models. Better still, Big Hero 6 implies that kids watching can become these superior characters, if they dare to apply themselves. Rival on-screen heroes like Batman and Spider-Man were born of tragedy, and of coincidence. There’s a dark moment in Big Hero 6 to triggers Hiro’s journey. It’s a requisite of almost any superhero origin story. But the beauty of Big Hero 6 is that the hero waiting inside of young Hiro rests in his intelligent brain. And who can’t get behind that?