- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 31, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘Meet the Robinsons’

Rating: G.

Common Sense Media: On.

*** (out of five stars)

Running time: 102 minutes.

Common Sense review: Plucky orphans are perfect protagonists in children’s adventures. Whether human (“Annie,” “Oliver Twist”) or animal (“Stuart Little,” “Wilbur”) they’re the ultimate underdogs, and only the most hardened heart could root against them.

In “Meet the Robinsons,” Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen) isn’t just an orphan — he’s a child genius. He invents practical gadgets, like a peanut-butter-and-jelly gun that makes sandwich preparation a cinch. He has scared off, by his count, 124 sets of potential parents (including one prospective father with a deadly peanut allergy).

So, in hopes of finally seeing the mother who left him at the orphanage’s doorstep, Lewis pours his energy into creating a memory machine that projects specific recollections onto a TV monitor. After a mix-up at the school science fair, he winds up having to zoom to the future with a mysterious ‘tween boy who knows about a strange nemesis who wants to ruin Lewis’ life.

Trying to explain the movie’s time-traveling plot is as confusing as figuring out the implications of the “Terminator” timeline, but the point of the future is to show young Lewis that he fits nicely into a zany family: the Robinsons, who have more wacky relatives than the “Addamses,” the “Fockers” and the “Tenenbaums” put together. After Lewis fails to fix a PB&J; device, the Robinsons celebrate his failure as a path to success.

When the film’s villain — a mustachioed man with a robotic bowler hat — unleashes a T-rex on the family, the clan joins forces to defend the young inventor. At last, he has a home — at least in the future.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that even very young children will dig this Disney-animated adventure. The story revolves around Lewis, a genius orphan who can’t seem to get adopted and who desperately wants to meet his real mother.

There’s a sense that he and his friends at the orphanage feel rejected — he counts 124 couples he’s met who don’t end up adopting him. The movie’s villains are a robotic bowler hat and the mysterious mustachioed man who wears it. The Bowler Hat Guy suffers from severe jealousy and bitterness, which is why he wants to ruin Lewis’ future. But the future, as it turns out, is bright for all, even Lewis’ nemesis.

Families can talk about how this movie compares to the William Joyce book it’s based on. Children: Had you read the book before you watched the movie? If not, did you know it was based on a book? Do you like movies that are based on books/stories more than ones that aren’t? Why? Families can also discuss why the Robinsons believe that failing is good. Can you think of a time that you didn’t win, but you still learned something useful? For fun, since Lewis is an aspiring inventor, name some inventions that you think would be useful in the future.

Sexual content: Young Lewis and Franny smile flirtatiously at each other.

Language alert: A few mild taunts: “booger breath,” “pukeface,” “butterfingers.”

Violence alert: An ominous, robotic bowler hat wreaks havoc in the future, forcing humankind into subservience. Bowler Hat Guy creeps around trying to foil Lewis’ plans.

Social-behavior alert: An orphan boy perseveres in the face of continued adversity. He also doesn’t hold a grudge against a bitter former friend and invites him to join his family. An adversary discovers the meaning of friendship.

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