know I am part of an infinitesimal minority, but I wish Hollywood would
consider a one-year moratorium on superhero films. Between all the
origin stories, the sequels, the spinoffs, the spoofs and the too-soon
reboots, I have had my fill of big-name actors in ridiculous outfits allowing their stunt doubles or digital stand-ins to save the world.
even a Denzel Washington action flick like “The Equalizer” plays like a
start-up entry in a comic-book franchise, matters are getting out of
course, such a break in the crash-boom action would at this point
probably cause the ruination of the movie business as we know it. No
less than 24 new titles are slated for the next six years. Studios might be forced to come up with
some fresh ideas that aren’t already known quantities pre-packaged as a
brand. That is, once they run out of YA novels to adapt for the screen.
is why I was chagrined to learn that Disney, which has been nicely
re-establishing itself as animation powerhouse beyond its Pixar label
after the success of “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Frozen,” was digging into the
Marvel vault for toon-worthy material.
As a result, my expectations were low for “Big Hero 6,”
based on an obscure comic book with a Japanese manga sensibility that
introduces yet another makeshift gang of warriors. In other words, the
dreaded origin story.
Much to my surprise, it didn’t take long to warm to this tale set in
the gleaming near-futuristic metropolis known as San Fransokyo where
trolley cars and an Asian-infused Golden Gate Bridge happily co-exist
with dumpling emporiums and Tokyo-inspired skyscrapers. And how could I
resist when, early on, a kick-ass gal is heard commanding a guy to “Stop
whining! Woman up!”
I also was taken from the outset by the 14-year-old hero
actually named Hiro (engagingly voiced by Ryan Potter), an overly cocky
punk who already has his high-school diploma. He is right on trend
with other troubled misfit geniuses in films this fall including those
in “The Imitation Game” and “The Theory of Everything.” Initially, the
scrawny lad invests his smarts into winning back-alley robot fights with
deceptively simple electronic toys of his own design.
after Hiro has a brush with the law, older brother Tadashi (Daniel
Henney) invites him to check out his college’s robotics lab with
thoughts of enrolling. There he meets an A-team of tech specialists:
adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung, the source of the above
”Woman up!” remark); upbeat chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (Genesis
Rodriguez); cautious neat-freak Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.); and fanboy
sidekick Fred, a sort of nerd answer Scooby-Doo pal Shaggy (T.J. Miller
of TV’s "Silicon Valley," whose humorous asides fall flat as often as they
to a nifty science project involving microbots, Hiro is accepted at the
school. Then tragedy strikes after a fire traps and kills both Tadashi
and Prof. Callaghan (James Cromwell), who was going to be Hiro’s
mentor. With no parents and his brother gone, Hiro retreats into his
bedroom in the apartment above a coffee shop run by his worrywart Aunt
Cass (Maya Rudolph).
“Big Hero 6” truly achieves liftoff, however, when Hiro happens upon Baymax, Tadashi’s invention, who is the perfect fill-in as a big brother. A really big
brother who is so viscerally huggable, you can practically squish him
with your eyes. Imagine a white 10-foot-tall inflatable robot programmed
to tend to the sick who is a cross between the Michelin Man, the Stay
Puft marshmallow character from “Ghostbusters” and a futon mattress.
calm in any storm, Baymax is dedicated to easing pain of all sorts and
certainly performs that function for a grieving Hiro. He also has a
great sense of physical humor not unlike such plus-size comics as John
Candy and John Belushi as he gingerly squeezes in and out of tight spots
or stumbles about as if drunk when his battery is low. Even his attempt
at a fist bump is an ingenious running gag.
there is the rest of the plot to deal with and, if you haven’t
guessed, Hiro along with a soon souped-up Baymax and the four lab
geeks form a crew of avengers. Their mission is to seek a mysterious
Kabuki-mask-wearing baddie suspected of setting the inferno as well as
stealing Hiro’s invention. There are sundry loud action sequences but
none are as thrilling as the sight of Hiro and a now-aerodynamic Baymax
forming a bond similar to that of Hiccup and Toothless in "How to Train
Your Dragon" as they soar hither and yon above the urban sprawl.
“Big Hero 6”
becomes increasingly more predictable in its final half hour as it
makes a few stabs at a surprise twist or two. This is no “The
Incredibles,” Pixar’s dysfunctional-family version of a superhero saga,
when it comes to originality. Baymax is great but he’s no Edna Mode.
But “Big Hero 6”
deserves praise for promoting an anti-violence message amid mayhem that–save for the fire–doesn’t physically maim anyone nor involve guns
or traditional weapons. An action adventure that puts brain ahead of
brawn as a valued commodity is always reason to celebrate. Add in the
considerable heart that Baymax contributes (with elements borrowed from
both “WALL-E” and “Up”), and you have a winner.
until the very end of the credits if you want to see a reveal about
Fred’s parentage. And resist dawdling at the concession stand before
being seated because you don’t want to miss a second of “Feast.” This
stylized short shot from an ankle-level point of view condenses 12 years
in the life of a voracious Boston terrier named Winston. In between
greedily gobbling his way through a smorgasbord of table scraps--spaghetti, nachos and pizza--the chow hound manages to stop devouring
long enough to play Cupid for his owner. A sprig of parsley never
seemed so romantic.