[Screen It]

"BIG HERO 6"
(2014) (voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Computer Animated Action/Adventure: A teenager uses his smarts to create an unlikely superhero team to capture a villain who's stolen his invention.
PLOT:
Hiro Hamada (voice of RYAN POTTER) is a 14-year-old teenager who's so smart that he graduated from high school at 13. Yet, he's only using his brains to create and operate a small robot to enter into 'bot battles with much older opponents. Raised by his Aunt Cass (voice of MAYA RUDOLPH) following the death of his parents more than a decade earlier, Hiro has an older brother in Tadashi (voice of DANIEL HENNEY), a student at a self-proclaimed "nerd school" run by Professor Robert Callaghan (voice of JAMES CROMWELL).

When Hiro sees what Tadashi and his fellow students -- including Honey Lemon (voice of GENESIS RODRIGUEZ), Go Go Tomago (voice of JAMIE CHUNG) and Wasabi Ginger (voice of DAMON WAYANS JR.) -- are doing in terms of inventions, the teen knows he must enroll there. His admittance project -- a swarm of microbots that can be manipulated into pretty much any shape via a brain-reading visor -- impresses Callaghan and the rest. It does the same for the professor's chief rival, tech CEO Alistair Krei (voice of ALAN TUDYK), but Hiro isn't interested in selling his invention to him.

After a family tragedy, Hiro has pretty much given up on everything, much to the dismay of his new friends, including Fred (voice of T.J. MILLER), the school mascot. All of that changes when Hiro accidentally activates Tadashi's school project, Baymax (voice of SCOTT ADSIT), a medical assistant robot who detects something wrong in the teen and sets out to make things right. That includes tracing a lone microbot to other such devices that are attracting it. When they discover a masked villain now in control of Hiro's invention, he helps turn his friends, along with Baymax, into an unlikely superhero team tasked with stopping the bad guy.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
When it comes to superhero characters, there are two distinct camps, one more heavily populated than the other. In one (crowded) corner, we have those who possess enhanced physical abilities that enable them to do amazing things and take hard beatings and come out fairly unscathed. Think of Superman, Thor, the Hulk and plenty of others as prime examples. In the other corner, we have resourceful and inventive human beings who've either heavily trained themselves or deployed technology to help them battle the villains. For this set, Batman and Iron Man are probably the most famous examples.

Either way, nearly all of them appear in so-called origins movies that are usually (but not always) better than the sequels that inevitably follow. That's not only because they're not sequels, but also due to introducing such characters in a memorable fashion, even if we already know them from comic books, TV shows, earlier movie incarnations of what have you. I have no idea how "Big Hero 6 2" (or perhaps titled "Six Squared," "Return of the Big Hero 6") will ultimately turn out, but if it's anything like the first installment, "Big Hero 6," we'll all be in for quite a treat.

Mixing together quite a collection of superhero movie clichés but putting a fresh spin on them as covered by a new coat of cinematic paint, directors Don Hall and Chris Williams -- who work from a script by Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson and Jordan Roberts -- have delivered an infectiously entertaining mash-up of sorts that's fun, funny and filled with plenty of action, not to mention some heapings of heart, to make it a winning offering pretty much anyway you might look at it.

It's adapted from a fairly little known Marvel Comics series of the same name (so, yes, there's a brief cameo by you know who in his to-be-expected appearance, albeit this time in computer-animated form). Despite its origins, some might view it as similar to "The Incredibles" (especially since both films come from the now merged Pixar-Disney conglomerate). But aside from both being highly enjoyable computer animated flicks about superheroes, they've otherwise different beasts. The former Pixar pic was about retired heroes being brought out of retirement to save the day, with the accompaniment of their kids.

Here, we have the standard kid character (voiced by Ryan Potter) who's smart but unmotivated and then gets the motivation (through a family loss, natch) to do something special with his smarts. He ends up joining other brainiacs (voiced by Genesis Rodriguez, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr. and T.J. Miller) in order to take on a villain who's stolen his invention that can be dangerous if used for nefarious reasons. Along the way -- and what really makes the film work -- he ends up teamed up with a robot that takes things quite literally.

In that vein, this is something of a kissing cousin, and a PG-rated one at that, to a somewhat similar set up in "Terminator 2" where Edward Furlong's character ended up teaching Arnold Schwarzenegger's android about being human (including the use of various slang phrases), all while ultimately learning a thing or two about humanity from the 'bot. 14-year-old Hiro gets matched with a large, inflatable, health care administrating robot known as Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit, and looking like he could be related to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and/or the Pillsbury Doughboy).

Their mismatched chemistry, if you will, is pitch perfect, while the scribes give them and the rest of the characters (and vocal cast) delicious dialogue. Some of that dries up a bit in the third act when the obligatory action takes over and suppresses the wit and charm (also in favor of some late in the game and fairly brief, if effective message delivery), but it's not enough of a dry spell to temper what's preceded it. Vocal work is superb across the board, while the visuals are nothing short of splendidly rich and detailed.

If you like your superheroes in origin form with plenty of wit, charm and infectious entertainment, I think you'll enjoy "Big Hero 6" quite a lot. I did, and give this enjoyable and sometimes touching film a big 7.5 out of 10.




Reviewed October 25, 2014 / Posted November 7, 2014


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