When his 14 year-old brother Hiro (voice of Ryan Potter) gets busted for 'bot fighting, Tadashi Hamada (voice of Daniel Henney) tries a little reverse psychology to get the kid interested in higher education. Hiro's entrance project demo is such a success it breeds corporate skullduggery and Tadashi's killed. But Tadashi's left his own project behind and Hiro adapts his Baymax health bot (voice of '30 Rock's' Scott Adsit) and recruits Tadashi's classmates to hunt down his killer as "Big Hero 6."
Disney's purchase of Marvel Studios has already stacked their release schedule with super hero movies, so it's a shame that they felt the need to turn to a Marvel comic series for their most recent animation inspiration. "Big Hero 6" is a terrific film in its first half, where screenwriters Robert L. Baird & Daniel Gerson ("Monsters University") and Jordan Roberts ("Around the Bend) have rejiggered the characters into a bunch of science and engineering geeks, but once its super hero aspects kick in, the film becomes derivative and tedious. It's an obvious grab for a franchise.
After observing Go Go Tomago's (voice of Jamie Chung) work with magnetic repulsion, Wasabi's (voice of Damon Wayans Jr.) lasers, Honey Lemon's (voice of Genesis Rodriguez) imaginative chemistry and school mascot Fred's (voice of T.J. Miller) enthusiasm, and then meeting legendary robotics Professor Robert Callaghan (voice of James Cromwell), Hiro's desperate to enter San Fransokyo Tech (the school in the movie's imaginary mashup of San Francisco and Tokyo). Advancing the ideas used in his fighting bot, Hiro presents thought-controlled magnetic microbots with potential uses in everything from construction to transportation. He's offered a huge payout on the spot from technology giant Alistair Krei (voice of Alan Tudyk), but Callaghan warns him away from the man. Minutes after leaving the auditorium, an explosion envelops it in fire. Tadashi rushes in to save Callaghan, but neither comes out.
Aunt Cass (voice of Maya Rudolph) isn't having any luck getting Hiro to eat or show any interest in joining the semester that's already begun, but when Hiro stubs his toe, his cry of pain activates his brother's healthcare bot Baymax, a slow-moving inflatable who kindly ministers to patients until he's assured his care has been satisfactory. Hiro's frustrated by the lovable 'bot's fussing, but when they notice the one remaining microbot Hiro carried out in his pocket is trying to move, Baymax follows orders to find the rest. The duo do find them, apparently not destroyed in the fire at all, but enclosed in a warehouse ready to do the bidding of the Kabuki masked, black bodysuited figure who goes on the attack. Hiro goes to Tadashi's lab mates for help and Fred surprises with the resources so each can turn their inventions into their super power while Hiro adapts Baymax into a power-fisted, kung-fu fighting, flying machine.
The film is a lot of fun while the science geeks do their thing. They're like 007's Q times four with a fan boy mascot whose unflappable butler, Heathcliff (voice of David Shaughnessy), is an ideal training assistant. But once the revenge plot kicks in, directors Don Hall (2011's "Winnie the Pooh") and Jordan Roberts ("Bolt") guide the story along a conventional route. The animation's nice, but even the visual conceptions aren't particularly new - the villain resembles Miyazaki's No Face from "Spirited Away," Fred seems modeled after "Scooby Doo's" Shaggy Rogers (and his butler's a nod to Batman) and the little ears that get added to Baymax's armored exterior makes him look too much like Toothless when he's airborne. Sure there's homage going on here (just check out Fred's 'toy' collection - I think I saw Birdman), but Baymax is so well conceived it's dispiriting to see the old super hero origin story trotted out. The film's climax is just a modification of "The Avengers." With all the educational programs and competitions in robotics these days, surely there was another way to go with this.
"Big Hero 6" will be sure to delight the kids, but adults may find themselves losing interest as it progresses. The 3D format adds little to the experience.
Robin did not see this film.
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