Ever since John Lasseter became the overseer of all of Disney’s creative endeavors, there has been a noticeable spike in the quality of the non-Pixar films they’ve released. Bolt, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen all displayed more care and craft than we’d come to expect from recent efforts from the house that Walt built, and Big Hero 6 continues that streak.
The main character is Hiro (voice of Ryan Potter), a precocious teenager who lives with his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) and their aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) after his parents died years earlier. He’s also a scientific prodigy who spends his time at underground robot fights, where his homemade creation usually wins.
Despite his genius, though, he has no interest in trying hard at school -- at least, not until Tadashi, a college student who’s also fascinated by science, brings Hiro to his lab and shows him Baymax (Scott Adsit), a friendly, marshmallow-like robot designed to diagnose and treat ill people. Hiro quickly befriends his brother’s creative labmates and decides he wants to attend the school as well, but he’ll have to impress Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell) at an upcoming tech conference to do so.
Things go well at the conference: Hiro’s invention, a series of microbots that can be controlled by human thought, impresses both Callaghan and Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk), a wealthy businessman who offers him a giant payday for his creation. Hiro passes on the money at the urging of Callaghan, who expresses his dislike for Krei’s lack of ethics. Later, tragedy strikes when a fire breaks out and Tadashi dies while attempting to save Callaghan. Hiro, overcome with grief, reprograms Baymax into a fighting robot in order to discover who caused the fire and avenge his brother’s death.
Big Hero 6 is a playful movie that stands out from other Disney fare due to its willingness to indulge in some offbeat comedic turns. By hiring talented and established comic performers such as Adsit and T.J. Miller (who voices one of Tadashi’s lab buddies), directors Don Hall and Chris Williams show their willingness to go beyond the typical fart jokes and lame cultural references that litter most animated fare. Big Hero 6 has a similar quirkiness to the shows on Adult Swim.
Baymax comes across like a loyal puppy. It’s plushy and warmhearted and always ready to help, and Adsit makes sure that this uncomplicated character never grows dull or repetitive. That’s quite an accomplishment, especially considering that it talks in a stereotypically robotic voice. The movie finds several ways to keep the character fresh, including a silly bit of business in which a power-drained Baymax stumbles around and rambles like a drunk.
All of this goodwill towards the characters and the comedy helps paper over the fact that the story of Big Hero 6 is practically incoherent. There’s a big reveal late in the movie that makes no sense whatsoever, and the script abruptly shoehorns in the typical lessons about sacrifice and the importance of forgiveness.
Big Hero 6 is, ultimately, another chance for Disney to sell toys, as well as a pretty blatant attempt to build a franchise for kids in the mold of The Avengers. Thankfully, it doesn’t feel as mercenary as it could have. It’s a likable, sweet, and funny movie that introduces characters people will be happy to revisit.
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