A week after “TMNT” exploded onto the screen, Disney once again shows how to make a family film with its latest release, “Meet the Robinsons.”
“Robinsons” features a nice story (even if it took seven screenwriters) and a compelling visual look that makes it a cut above other animated films in 2007.
The film tells the story of Lewis, a brilliant inventor and orphan who meets a mysterious stranger named Wilbur Robinson.
Lewis soon learns that Wilbur has come from the future to help prevent the bumbling villain known as the Bowler Hat Guy from stealing Lewis' latest invention.
When the Bowler Hat Guy still gets away with the invention, the boys set out to chase him down in Wilbur's time machine.
When done right, time-travel movies can be a lot of fun. Fortunately, “Robinsons” is up to the task, with a clever plot that will interest adults and please its young target audience as well (although expect some questions from inquisitive youngsters trying to piece together the final puzzle).
The cast isn't a who's who of A-list celebrities, but there are still some nice work from actors like Angela Bassett, Harland Williams, Laurie Metcalf and Tom Selleck (who is also part of a clever gag in the film that most parents will appreciate).
The movie's strength, however, is its visuals - director Stephen J. Anderson delivers a film that is fun to look at, even if you don't get the 3-D version, which, unfortunately isn't available in this market, but can be experienced at Opry Mills in Nashville. From bubbles that transport citizens from place to place to singing frogs and a talking dinosaur, there is a lot on the plate and it all looks great.
“Robinsons” isn't quite up to par with recent Disney films like “Cars” and “The Incredibles,” but it is still a quality film that the entire family can enjoy together.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is “The Good Shepherd” (B), Robert DeNiro's ambitious (if somewhat overstuffed) look at the early days of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Matt Damon stars as Edward Wilson, a Yale graduate who is recruited for the newly founded Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor to the CIA).
Wilson's work, which takes place in the height of the Cold War, eventually takes its toll on his home life and his ideologies, leaving Wilson unable to trust anyone.
Robert DeNiro hasn't gotten behind the camera much - this is only his second directing credit - but he displays an experienced eye willing to let his actors work.
And there are plenty of actors in “Shepherd,” a smorgasbord of stars. Damon heads the cast with a controlled performance, but the film also includes Alec Baldwin (good as always), Angelina Jolie (miscast as Wilson's wife), Billy Crudup, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Joe Pesci and DeNiro (in a small but juicy role as Wilson's boss).
My biggest problem with “Shepherd” is its length. At nearly three hours, there is a lot to absorb. Fortunately, home video should help solve this problem since viewers having the ability to rewind and sort out all the players in this rather complex tale.
“The Good Shepherd” is rated R for some violence, sexuality and language and is now available on DVD.