Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6

2014, PG, 108 min. Directed by Don Hall, Chris Williams. Voices by Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph.

REVIEWED By William Goss, Fri., Nov. 7, 2014

Another friggin’ superhero story that acknowledges comic-book tropes while rarely subverting them, Big Hero 6 is powered nonetheless by its witty charms, lively animation, and swift pace. Disney’s first foray into Marvel territory (without tying itself directly into their well-established onscreen universe) hits all the requisite beats of hardship and teamwork while playing in a more family-friendly key.

Teenage prodigy Hiro (voiced by Potter) prefers ’bot-fighting in the back alleys of San Fransokyo to hitting the books, but under the guidance of older brother Tadashi (Henney), Hiro is encouraged to give the local university’s robotics program a shot. It isn’t long before a tragedy leaves the already orphaned Hiro nearly family-less, but remaining in the aftermath is Baymax (Adsit), an inflatable, well-meaning, and persistently loyal companion that Hiro soon transforms into an exceedingly considerate crime-fighting machine.

It isn’t much of a spoiler to reveal that the title refers to a team consisting of these two and four other souped-up crime-stoppers. With a quartet of credited writers shifting their focus between the assembly of Big Hero 6 and the bond between its two chief protagonists, Hero can feel like a piecemeal assembly of narratives: the origin story of countless other superhero movies, complete with a glowing whatsit threatening an entire metropolis; the boy-and-his-blank kinship shared by Pete’s Dragon, My Neighbor Totoro, and The Iron Giant; the nerd power mentality recently shared by the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs films.

Thankfully, those storylines are all populated with equally endearing characters, not least of which is Baymax himself (itself?): a cuddly, aloof beacon of compassion amid contrasting pursuits of justice. Even the city-blending backdrop of San Fransokyo lends a sense of visual distinction to the proceedings, with the action sequences – among them a spirited car chase and an aerial test run clearly indebted to the first How to Train Your Dragon – benefiting from the experience of co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams, whose Bolt proved similarly adept at action.

Much like the majority of Marvel’s live-action fare, Big Hero 6 colors brightly enough inside the lines to forgive the typical story trappings. (And, of course, be sure to stay after the credits.)

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Big Hero 6, Don Hall, Chris Williams

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