Big Hero 6 (2014)

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“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain?”

Judging from the initial promo clips, I figured this would be a grand tale of a boy wonder and his superhero robot. Which it is, but thankfully there’s a lot more intimacy happening here, even if at times it’s predictable and unoriginal. Some of the best animated movies receive such high praise because they appeal on an intellectual and emotional level with both children and adults, such as Up, Wall-E, How to Train Your Dragon, etc (or mostly anything from the Pixar brain trust). Big Hero 6 is a lighthearted and enjoyable movie with genuine laughs, popping visuals, and thrilling action sequences. Only one part of the movie really sticks with you, which I’ll discuss later, but there’s a lot of promise to be found for sequels in this superhero origin story.

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Kid genius Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) might only be 14, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t already graduated high school. He lives with his Aunt and his brother in the futuristic San Fransokyo, spending nights squandering his talents cockfighting with creations all too similar to the old BattleBots on TV. The young Hiro puts himself in harm’s way hustling his adult opponents with a small but unbeatable bot. But it’s not until Hiro’s older brother Hadashi (Daniel Henney) takes him to his advanced robotics college that Hiro starts to contemplate making use of his unrivaled brilliance. And it’s there we’re introduced to the rest of the story’s characters.

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The apt-nicknamed crew is as follows; Wasabi’s (Damon Wayans) a giant brute and cautious teddy bear unwilling to take a risk, Go Go (Jamie Chung) ditches the instruction manual and is always full speed ahead, Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) is the polite charmer her name implies, and Fred (T.J. Miller) parades around as the school mascot even though he’s not a student…he just really likes science. They’re all unique and bring contrasting, battling attitudes that show their character depth while never seizing center stage from the main protagonists.

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That’s left to Baymax (Scott Adsit), an AI nurse created by Hadashi and coerced into superhero mode by Hiro. Baymax is a combination of the Pillsbury Doughboy’s friendly personality and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s body. It was a giant risk by Disney to invest so much stake in a colorless and clumsy figure with a giant gut, but it definitely pays dividends. Baymax makes the movie work, playing as the source of some pretty good setups and payoffs, slapstick humor, and surprising emotion. When he’s with Hiro, it is so similar to the relationship in Terminator 2 (stick with me). Baymax’s sole purpose is to protect and ensure good health, and along the way Hiro teaches him words and gestures that humanize him, allowing for him and for us to make an emotional attachment to a robot. Sounds familiar now, right? It’s the best aspect of the movie.

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What was disappointing was the uninspired story and the terrible, all too obvious villain, borrowing so heavily from animated and live action films alike. And nearly every time we see Baymax he hits us over the head that he’s a robot and is incapable of feeling emotion. That betrays the entire second half of the story. In a way, it’s a friendlier, less complicated and less dramatic, more diluted version of The Incredibles. In that, the ties that bind the family together are strong, while this film is comfortable hanging loose. This is a good movie, full of positive messages promoting higher learning and the value of friendship. But there’s nothing really all that heroic about it. Still, kids will love it, adults will like it, and in a divisive era of movies where that can rarely be said, Big Hero 6 saves the day.

“I am satisfied with my care.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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