Big Hero 6: Not Perfect, But Worth It

Disney is well known for recreating fairy tales in animated cinema. While it has a fair share of films that are either from scratch or based on other stories, Disney grew its roots in fairy tales since its first movie Snow White. So when they started releasing trailers of its new animated movie Big Hero 6, I met them with cautious optimism. On one hand, it’s coming from Disney & Pixar, which is also the creator of the Toy Story movies and Wreck-it Ralph. But on the other hand, the trailers didn’t say a lot about what kind of story Big Hero 6 would tell. They showed some clips of a kid who [secretly] has a cute robot and others of a group of kids dressed like superheroes flying around the city. And since we’ve seen a ton of stories involving superheroes and kids keeping secrets from their parents, I didn’t think this movie would be new or unique, or even have a lot that could be remembered at Oscar time.

But then I went to see it, and it proved me wrong. I’m back from the theater writing about the movie, and I still feel shocked by how good it was.

So here’s the story: Our main character is a teenage protégé named Hiro, who loves inventing and engineering. When he visits the science lab of a college that his older brother Tadashi attends, Hiro decides to apply. So he makes an invention that earns him an acceptance letter into the school. But on the night he makes it in, the building sets on fire and Tadashi dies while trying to save a professor. Through a few complicated—but well thought out—developments following Tadashi’s death, Hiro discovers that someone had stolen his invention and used the fire as a cover-up. Hoping to avenge his brother, Hiro decides to steal back his invention and bring the thief to justice. But he can’t do it on his own, so he enlists the help of Tadashi’s college friends (also engineering majors) and reprograms Tadashi’s robotic invention (called Baymax) to help save the city.

The best part of Big Hero 6 was, surprisingly, its psychological brilliance. The heart of the story isn’t a quirky robot or college kids going out to save the world. The heart of the story is dealing with the loss of a loved one. We’ve seen Disney touch on such an issue before in Lilo and Stitch and its adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia, but this is the first time we’ve seen them use an entire movie to talk about it. It could’ve easily been one of Disney’s cheesiest movies—and to an extent, it kind of is—but for the most part, they chose a very clever and very mature way of talking about it.

Sadly, no work of art is perfect, and Big Hero 6 was no exception to this. For one, there’s a flying sequence with Hiro and an updated Baymax that almost directly rips off of Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon. And though the story is well paced and well developed, it isn’t quite airtight. It has a few twists in the second act, one that works in favor of the movie, and another that works against it. And then there’s the setting, which is supposed to be a futuristic mix of San Francisco and Tokyo. Why? What’s the purpose?

Thankfully, Big Hero 6 has other likeable features that make up for the film’s flaws. The animation of the characters and the city is gorgeous, worthy of a Pixar film. The characters are memorable and hilarious in their own rights. And the movie’s sense of humor is not only good, but it also brings a perfect balance between happy and sad that the whole family can enjoy.

Overall, I’d say go watch it while it’s still in theaters. And then root for it at Oscar time. And then keep an eye out for the DVD release. As the title of this review indicates, it’s not perfect, but it’s worth it.

Final rating: 8/10

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