- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2007

You think your family is odd? Wait until you “Meet the Robinsons.”

Walt Disney’s latest animation proves family comes first, even if said family includes crooning frogs and a couch-bound uncle.

This critic viewed the film in 3-D, and after a brief projector glitch the results proved there may be some life left in this throwback technology.

Based on the book “A Day with Wilbur Robinson” by William Joyce, the film follows an orphan named Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry) with an Einstein-like brain and an “Eraserhead” coif.

Poor Lewis can’t find a family to adopt him, so he channels his energy into a series of fantastic inventions.

One day, he takes his latest contraption to the school science fair, where unbeknownst to him lurks the Bowler Hat Guy (played by “Robinsons’ ” director Stephen J. Anderson).

This evil gent wants to swipe the invention and use it to rewrite the future.

Not so fast, says Wilbur Robinson. The Robinson teen, who lives in the future, uses a time machine to visit Lewis’ era and prevent the Bowler Hat Guy from his mission.

Why? Well, “Meet the Robinsons” unfolds its tricky but well-constructed story without losing its multi-generational audience, all the while delivering some surprisingly rich humor.

Soon, Lewis is whisked off to the future, where he meets the Robinsons, a clan full of kooky but lovable sorts who embrace the lad as one of their own.

The film’s first 20 minutes rise to the animated heights of “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story,” but “Robinsons” can’t maintain that giddy level of fun.

A good story will keep toddlers and their parents rooted to their seats. Unfortunately, the filmmakers resort to distracting, artificial stimulants like action sequences and bizarro characters during “Robinsons’ ” many manic sequences. The family, for example, includes a morbidly obese fellow and the aforementioned frog. The action swirling around said family during one dinner sequence could give viewers a serious case of ADHD.

Once the moment passes, the film’s natural humor returns, much of which is aimed squarely at the parents in the crowd.

Thankfully, it isn’t all about the yuks.

Lewis’ attempt to find his birth mother is a sophisticated subplot drawn with tenderness. How that search wraps is one of the film’s more sedate moments, and a fine one at that.

“Robinsons” wisely does without big star cameos, instead populating its cast with lesser known, but durable talents. Comic Harland Williams’ (2002’s “Sorority Boys”) turn as the Robinsons’ feisty robot is one of many strong performances. And bravo to whoever decided to let “Batman’s” Adam West join this family.

“Meet the Robinsons” is gorgeous when seen through a pair of black 3-D glasses. But even in plain ol’ two dimensions, the film’s heart-affirming story should be dazzling enough for most audiences.

***

TITLE: “Meet the Robinsons”

RATING: G (Mild action violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Stephen J. Anderson. Written by Jon Bernstein, Robert L. Baird, Michelle Bochner, Daniel Gerson and Shirley Pierce based on the novel “A Day with Wilbur Robinson” by William Joyce.

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

WEB SITE: https://disney.go.com/disneypictures/meettherobinsons/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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