Big Hero 6 Voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller. Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams. Rated PG. Opens Friday.
Disney/Marvel corporate synergy reaches new heights with Big Hero 6, a Disney animated movie adapted (albeit very loosely) from an obscure Marvel comic book and given the kid-friendly Disney treatment. It’s not part of the Marvel cinematic universe, but its origin-story structure is fairly familiar, with teen genius Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) experiencing a personal tragedy that inspires him to use his powers (of intellect) to fight for what’s right. In this case, it’s Hiro’s older brother who dies in a suspicious accident, and a kabuki-masked mystery man who appears to be responsible. Hiro repurposes a cute inflatable robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit) that his late brother originally designed as a health-care aide, and he eventually recruits a group of fellow tech-heads to form a makeshift team and bring the masked man to justice.
It takes a long time to get to that point, though, and along the way the movie tries to deal sensitively with issues of grief and family bonding, while offering up plenty of comic relief courtesy of the naïve, prissy, C-3PO-esque Baymax. Baymax is consistently entertaining and clearly destined for a merchandising bonanza, but the rest of the characters are much less clearly defined, especially the other members of Hiro’s eventual team. Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams, both Disney veterans, create a bright, friendly world (the comic book takes place in Japan, but the movie is set in fictional East-West hybrid city San Fransokyo), and they stage some exciting action sequences (although the climax is a bit of a jumbled mess). The plotting, however, is Scooby-Doo-level, making Hiro’s big adventure feel smaller and less momentous than it should.
Big Hero 6 seems tailor-made for a likable yet forgettable animated TV series, but it lacks the imagination and ambition of recent Disney animated features like Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, which have been part of a mini-renaissance for the studio. Kids will likely respond to the vibrant colors and Baymax’s amusing catch phrases, and the end of the movie primes them to return for a sequel, whether or not it has any reason to exist.