by Jeff Boudreaux
With a captivating teaser trailer that came out way before the film, the anticipation for Disney’s latest animated effort pays off in the form of “Big Hero 6.”
Set in the hybrid city of San Fransokyo, 14-year old robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) likes to spend his time raking in cash from unsuspecting hustlers at “bot-fights.” That’s right, think cockfights with robots instead of roosters. This lands him in a few sticky situations from which his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) must save him. Tadashi is a student at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology and has developed an inflatable robot named Baymax, the purpose of which is to provide healthcare to anyone in distress.
After meeting Tadashi’s friends and Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell), Hiro decides to put his talents to proper use and develops a series of tiny robots, which he calls “mini-bots.” These robots are controlled by a neurotransmitter and can form anything and serve any purpose. After his big hit at the science exhibition, Hiro’s invention draws the attention of the unscrupulous business magnate Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk).
The next thing you know, the pavilion catches fire with all of the inventions and, most importantly, Professor Callaghan inside. Tadashi rushes in to find his mentor, when the pavilion explodes with both Tadashi and Callaghan within. After the memorial service, Hiro crawls into his proverbial shell but stumbles upon Baymax at the house who instantly becomes his protector of sorts. As Hiro notices the sole “mini-bot” that he still possesses trying to join with the rest of the “mini-bots,” Hiro and Baymax discover that the bots weren’t destroyed as initially believed. They are actually being replicated and are controlled by a sinister villain with a mask.
This prompts Hiro to design a special fighting suit and computer chip for Baymax, who still believes that these actions are for Hiro’s “well-being,” and also enlist the help of Tadashi’s friends Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), GoGo (Jamie Chung), and Fred (the hilarious T.J. Miller). They collectively form a science-powered superhero team known as “Big Hero 6.” And now the title makes sense.
Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit) is one of the most lovable robots in recent memory. Youngsters will surely fall in love with the huggable robot that isn’t supposed to have a heart, but we all know better. The animation is superb and also features the vocal talent of Maya Rudolph as Cass, Hiro and Tadashi’s aunt and legal guardian.
Directed by relative newcomers Don Hall and Chris Williams (Bolt), the film is not without its shortcomings. While the character of Baymax is terrific and rightfully steals the show, the film sometimes drags in places when he isn’t onscreen. The occasionally un-inspired battle sequences play out as if we were watching a kiddie-version of “Sucker Punch.” It didn’t quite work for Zack Snyder and the same goes for this film. Regardless, the key components of many successful movies include that of action, comedy, and pathos – though not necessarily in that order. “Big Hero 6” effectively integrates all of the above into its fabric, providing a delightful escape for audiences of all ages.
“Big Hero 6” may be considered a departure from standard Disney fare. The film is actually based on a comic book series by Marvel which is owned by Disney, although the Marvel name appears nowhere on this film. However, there is a surprise cameo at the end of the film that will surely satisfy comic book enthusiasts. I highly recommend that everyone do as I always do and stay until the end of the credits. The cleanup crew can wait a few extra minutes and you will undoubtedly be rewarded as Disney and Marvel come full circle.
*** (three out of four stars)