Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Meet the Robinsons


Traditionally in Hollywood, if an action movie has a weakness, it is in the third act, when everything falls apart in a flurry of violence and illogic. Here we have a movie which has a really bad second act, and the reason is simple: Too many Robinsons. The movie was adapted from a book called A Day With Wilbur Robinson. If the book had any fans (I have no idea) they must have been howling, because it was apparently about a boy who takes a trip into the country and meets the Robinson family. Each one he meets is weirder than the last one. The plot revolves around looking for Grandpa’s false teeth. The writers have taken this and wrapped a complicated plot around it involving time travel, strange inventions, and an orphan looking for his mother. And, oddly, this is the part that works, the set-up and the resolution. In between we meet the weird Robinsons and there just isn’t enough time to get to know any of them. It’s like walking quickly past a carnival sideshow. Here’s the fat lady, here’s the contortionist, here’s the … come on, move along now, we ain’t got all day if we’re going to see the fire-eater. My feeling was that if they’d cut the number of family members in half it would have worked a lot better. Characters would have had time to establish themselves in my mind.
In my initial review of this movie, when I saw it at the drive-in, I spent most of my time complaining about the frenetic pace. I have either adjusted somewhat to that in the intervening years, or it works better on the smaller TV (we have a 46” HD flat screen). It’s probably a bit of both. This time through, the intro worked much better, and so did the ending. What is still rotten is the core, the hyperactive tour through the family home. The look of the thing is even better than I remember, especially the art deco city of the future. (One neighborhood features the rocket jets and Space Mountain ride from Tomorrowland. It’s called Todayland. Funny.) The bad guy—at first just known as the Bowler Hat Guy—is very funny; his hat is much smarter than he is. There are other inside jokes. In a quick rundown of the family, we haven’t yet seen the father, and every time he is referred to there is a picture of Tom Selleck. Then in the end credits I discover that he was voiced by Selleck. Funny. There is other cool stuff like that. So if I was rating this by a ten-star system, I’d have to give it 6.66 stars. Too bad about the middle.