When child inventor Frank Walker is recruited at the Worlds Fair, he is transported to a glittering futuristic city in another dimension. Forty years on, teen genius Casey Newton is similarly recruited to join the adult Frank to prevent the end of the world.
In the spirit of a live-action version of The Incredibles (also by director Brad Bird of M.I.-4) or Despicable me, or perhaps, Up! , Tomorrowland rattles along from one bizarrely disjointed set-piece to another without ever getting its act together or deciding who its audience is; a Disney movie with a strong cast that is somehow less than the sum of its parts.
Imagine Men in Black crossed with Back to the Future, as a Disney pre-teen movie with robots, dimensional travel, and retro-futuristic rockets ships launching from the Eiffel Tower toward an extra-dimensional, glittering City of the Future. Throw in a few wacky flying sequences, loads of MiB gadgets, comedy killer robots and an eco-message about as subtle as El Ninho and you get… not very engaged.
Clooney (Monuments Men, Gravity) is watchable as ever, if slightly too much the irascible middle-aged bachelor; Britt Roberston the precocious teen genius and Raffey Cassidy an impeccably polite kick-ass child robot. And Hugh Laurie gets the thankless task of British villain.
Try to decide if its an almost non-stop romp like MiB, or a pointless parade of CGI set-pieces straight out of Lost in Space. Clooney’s Frank Walker is just too grumpy, Roberston’s Casey just too sulky and Cassidy’s Athena too snippy (and too often the Deus Ex Machina in the threatrical sense).
The plot, besides being one big chase movie punctuated by a bunch of clever robots, big and small, framed in Gargantuan Mega-sets Inc.’s finest green-screened cityscapes, is one of those end-of-the-world eco-disaster yarns, in which an all-American teen and Clooney have to save the world as we know it.
It’s a bright, shiny, flashy creation, ribbon-tied with Disney’s customary wholesome optimism; some mild peril, pure escapist action that mostly defies physics and yet it spectacularly underperformed at the box office. Why?
The parents don’t want to see a grey haired and dishevelled Clooney, the kids don’t want to see some grumpy old guy either. Hugh Laurie’s part is so woefully underwritten and his performance so po-faced, he’s a lacklustre villain. And Robertson is just the wrong side of puberty to make an empathetic child lead.
So once again, you wonder how Disney put so much into this and got so little out. SC
Director: Brad Bird
Writers: Brad Bird, Damon Lindelof, Jeff Jensen
Running time: 2h 9m
Genres: Action, adventure, sci-fi,fantasy
Cast: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw