Meet the Robinsons (2007)
October 9, 2018 12:44 PM - Subscribe

Lewis is a brilliant inventor who meets mysterious stranger named Wilbur Robinson, whisking Lewis away in a time machine and together they team up to track down Bowler Hat Guy in a showdown that ends with an unexpected twist of fate.

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)
Director Stephen J. Anderson has created a visually arresting version of the future (picture Rube Goldberg by way of the Jetsons with a dash of David Lynch), and Wilbur's house and family are drawn with vivid eccentricity. The visuals are dominated by bright reds and turquoise; each character more zany than the last, up to and including a band of jazz-playing frogs. (Keep an eye and ear out for Tom Selleck in a wonderful cameo.)

But the best thing about "Meet the Robinsons" is its story, which turns those adoption myths (that kids "audition" for adoptive parents, that the key to happiness is finding your biological origins) on their head and happens to have an important moral: No matter how victimized, put upon, picked on or just plain unlucky you are -- how most delicately to put this? -- get over yourself. This lesson is delightfully delivered by the film's fabulous villain, a spiky, improbably balletic creature named Bowler Hat Guy (voiced by Anderson himself). By far the most memorable character in a film that at times seems to feature a cast of thousands, Bowler Hat Guy provides most of the film's comedy as well as its hard-won pathos.
posted by zinon (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Based loosely on a very loved book from my childhood, A Day With Wilbur Robinson.
posted by phunniemee at 2:45 PM on October 9, 2018

Based loosely on a very loved book from my childhood, A Day With Wilbur Robinson.

Created by William Joyce, also the creative force behind Disney Channel's Rolie Polie Olie.

Someone in a recent thread about Treasure Planet called Meet the Robinsons an " embarrassingly bad 3D [movie]". I had to beg to differ. The animation is *perfect* for the Joyce environment, and the movie is just so full of heart. There are a couple of jokes that fall flat, of course, but it's a generally funny, smart romp.
posted by hanov3r at 3:58 PM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree, the animation in Meet the Robinsons is totally fine, and works well with their specular depiction of the future. This movie is also associated with my favorite Disney park-associated song, and is far superior to the other Tommorowland-associated movie.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:57 PM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'd give it a B+, but it's one of the weirdest, most confusing B+'s ever. It's A for one sequence, C for the next, and then it bumps along as a B for a while before crashing hard into a D.

As I understand it, this is what happened: Disney was almost finished making a pretty crappy movie. Then they merged with Pixar and John Lasseter saw what they were doing and ordered them to make huge changes, including a scarier villain with a weird, flying hat robot sidekick, and a big chase scene with a t-rex. (And of course, the villain, the hat robot and the t-rex chase all seem very Pixar and they're far and away the best part of the film.) By some accounts they re-did about 60 percent of the movie. It wouldn't surprise me if they did, because the film's roughly 60 percent good and 40 percent unwatchable.

The big problem with the movie (and it's a big problem) is the Robinsons themselves. They're supposed to be crazy in a funny way but they come across like people in a mental ward. One guy is "married" to a lady glove puppet on his hand; another wears his clothes backwards (insisting that his clothes are on the right way but his head is backwards); another is a hugely obese, unspeaking, man-child idiot who throws tantrums if he doesn't get his peanut butter and jelly. Seriously, the scenes with this gang play less like a trip into the future and more like an enforced stay in the Cuckoo's Nest. Almost every moment that they're onscreen is frenetic, noisy and confusing - except for when they suddenly turn maudlin, like when they offer to adopt Lewis after having known him for 10 minutes or so.

All that being said, there's a lot to like about the film. The villain has an interesting backstory and there are a lot of funny sight gags involving his flying hat robot. Some of the stuff about adoption is genuinely affecting. It's a good movie - except when it isn't. Which is often.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:56 PM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

This movie packed an emotional punch I was not expecting at all.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:27 PM on October 12, 2018

I just rewatched this last night with my girlfriend, who had somehow never seen it before. We ended up in a long talk about Disney villains, how a line can be drawn from Bowler Hat Guy through Wreck-It Ralph to Big Hero 6's Professor Callahan, and how Disney seems to be moving away from clearly villainous people to either sympathetic "villains" whose backstory ostensibly explains their badness or to movies without a clearly defined "villain" at all (Turning Red, Encanto, Elemental). Even their actual, previously one-dimensional villains are getting a reputation makeover, courtesy of things like the live-action Maleficent and Cruella.
posted by hanov3r at 1:30 PM on November 1, 2023

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