There’s been such an onslaught of animated movies over the past year or so, it only feels like they’re coming at you in 3-D.
“Meet the Robinsons” actually does, and it’s one of the more tolerable of the genre in recent memory.
Thankfully, it doesn’t consist of smart-alecky talking animals spewing one-liners and pop culture references. And the digital three-dimensional effects are pretty spectacular. A lot of times with this technology, it’s too easy to zing and fling things at the audience, simply because you can. It’s gratuitous — and yes, we’re talking to you, Robert Rodriguez. The most recent “Spy Kids” movie is a prime example of this.
Here, the effects spring organically from the story. You feel like you’re immersed in a complete universe, the way the ground slopes toward you or objects seem to come from behind you and enter the screen. As directed by Stephen J. Anderson, who previously worked on “The Emperor’s New Groove” and makes his feature debut here, “Meet the Robinsons” has a beautifully retro art deco aesthetic — a sci-fi vision of the future as it might have been imagined during the Eisenhower administration.
The script itself, however — credited to seven people — is strictly two-dimensional. Based on the book “A Day With Wilbur Robinson” by William Joyce, the film follows the adventures of young Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen), a bespectacled boy whose mother left him at an orphanage when he was an infant. Being the science geek and aspiring inventor that he is, he creates a memory scanner in with the hope of going back and finding his mother. (Never mind his father, who’s never mentioned.)
Instead, Lewis winds up in the future, having been whisked away by his new friend, Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman). There, Wilbur’s family of misfits and weirdoes offers to take him in. (Adam West and Tom Selleck are among the actors lending their voices, with Angela Bassett as the head of the orphanage. “Meet the Robinsons” also happens to be mercifully free of the distracting stunt casting that marks so many of these movies.)
So what’s the central conflict here? Well, Lewis still wants to find his mom, of course. There’s also an overly zealous, mustache-twirling guy in a bowler hat, named Bowler Hat Guy, who’s after him for his device. (As voiced by director Anderson, he gets the majority of the laughs just for being such a spindly, delusional goofball.) Plus there are all those pesky time-travel issues regarding changing history, and so forth.
It’s hard to feel too emotionally engaged by any of this, but easy to watch. Kids will probably be sufficiently entertained, and adults can just sit back and enjoy the eye candy. Plus you get these cool, dark glasses that make anyone who wears them look like Roy Orbison.