Update. Next Publication is: Under Strange Suns, available digitally August 2015, print version due December 2015, Twilight Times Books.

Tardy Film Reviews: Big Hero 6

My daughter V.V.,  the budding Disney animated film enthusiast, is highly discriminating. But when she likes something, she is obsessive. This may be typical of the nigh-two year population at large: I don’t know; this is my first trip down fatherhood lane.

V.V.’s latest obsession is Big Hero 6, Disney’s first foray into animated superhero films after The Incredibles. This joins The Jungle Book, Lilo and Stitch, and The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in her arsenal of go to, view ad nauseum movies. Why these? Why the lack of interest in 101 Dalmations or The Aristocats? I have a theory that I hereby designate the Pooh Theory. V.V. is drawn to animation featuring rotund, cuddly, semi-neotenic characters. Winnie the Pooh was the first. Baloo the Bear followed. She always grows more animated when he appears on screen. He’s a more adult Pooh, but I think the connection is there. Stitch is a cuddly stuffed-animal sort of character, somewhat bear-like. And Baymax, the robotic health-care provider cum superhero, fits the mold. As exhibit 1 (and the only exhibit, really – this is just a half-assed theory, not a doctoral thesis) I submit that when Baymax appears on screen V.V. will occasionally say “Pooh.”

So, V.V. likes it. But is it any good if you are old enough to dress yourself? Well, yes. It is gorgeously animated. I see something new every time (oh, so many times) I see it. I notice the care the animators took detailing the environment: the cracks in a windowsill, the discoloration in a roof tile. The signs, the photographs. The detailing is impressive. The story is the expected origin tale, but entertaining. The humor is sharp. The emotion is well-conveyed, not contrived or driven primarily by swelling music.

What’s it about? In a near future world, San Francisco has, for some unexplained reason, become San Fransokyo, the SF we know, but overlain with Japanese elements. Or perhaps this is a parallel Earth. The film never bothers with this point. It just is. And it works. Of course, I amuse myself inventing scenarios leading to the transforming of SF to San Fransokyo (I’m partial to the one involving Japanese refugees from a Godzilla attack) but that’s me: I make up things and write them down for fun and money. Anyway, our hero, Hiro, is a wunderkind, wasting his precocious brain on underground robot fighting. His elder brother tricks him into interest in college, an institution Hiro refers to dismissively as “Nerd School.” The elder brother has been developing a robot health-care provider, Baymax. Circumstances lead Hiro and his brother’s nerd school friends to create a superhero team, with Baymax an unlikely centerpiece. Baymax is, in fact, the fulcrum that lifts the film. I don’t want to spoil any of that.

Now, I do have nits to pick. But that is inevitable after watching any film an absurd number of times. Still, at least one of my objections applies to other films as well. In superhero films, often a character becomes a superhero through use of one particular piece of technology currently unavailable to anyone else. Fair enough, as far as it goes. Yet, why does possession of this one item render the wearer suddenly capable of acrobatic feats and martial arts mastery unrelated to the technology? I’m looking at you, Wasabi.

I could complain more. But that would undermine the point that I do, in fact, recommend

Big Hero 6, whether you are just about to turn 2 or 52. And V.V., I’m comfortable asserting, agrees.