Review: Meet the Robinsons

Seven writers, people. It took seven credited writers to bring "Meet the Robinsons" (IMDb listing) to the big screen. All that effort and the picture is still an absolute mess.

In the film, Lewis is an inquisitive orphan with a knack for invention and a heart aching for a family. Debuting a high-tech thought machine at his school's science fair, his plans for victory are thwarted by the evil Bowler Hat Guy, who steals the machine for his own financial gain. Coming to his aid is Wilbur, a friend from the future who is trying to protect Lewis and his inventions. Taking Lewis to the future in his time machine, Wilbur shows the orphan a family full of affection, leaving Lewis stuck between the needs of the present and hope for the future.

Stephen J. Anderson's "Meet the Robinsons' is a spilled toy box of a motion picture; a random and utterly unconvincing hodgepodge of ideas and messages with idealistic comic intentions but a dearth of proper execution.

Author William Joyce's 1993 book (titled "A Day with Wilbur Robinson") was a little on the wacky side itself, but in trying to match that spunk to the CG animated realm, Anderson has become carried away with his movie.

"Robinsons" feels as though it was divided up into seven parts, each section passed off to a different writer with hopes that the Disneyfication process could weld the scripted chunks together seamlessly. Criminally, the opposite effect occurs; it's a Frankenstein's Monster of a feature, stitched together feebly from latte-fueled late night comedy brainstorming sessions and brazen Mouse House ego that declares anything colorful can be passed off as cohesion.

Seriously, with frogs running around pretending they're in the Rat Pack, killer bowler hat invasions, Tom Selleck cameos, a time-travel subplot that makes "Back to the Future Part II" feel like "Dora the Explorer," a kung-fu movie homage (with poor dubbing and mono sound), literal shovelfuls of wacky futuristic characters to digest, and slapstick humor on par with the Curly Joe DeRita era of the "Three Stooges," "Robinsons" is nothing more than a shapeless series of non sequiturs, wheezing irreverence, and jokes begging desperately for laughs. Some theaters are offering the film in 3D to better pepper the viewing experience. They should all offer beds instead.

When it isn't trying to snap the funny bone, "Robinsons" is too busy explaining itself. For a family film, "Robinsons" is an exposition nightmare; the final act is a series of speeches that try to make sure the slip 'n slide plot follows some logic to those not paying close attention. There's also a strange bit of business with the script looking to marry a quote by Walt Disney to what passes for the film's flea-sized moral ("hey kids … uh … don't give up!"). Perhaps it isn't any odder than the bowler hat bit, but it's pretty darn close.

There's no singular artistic voice present here, and no pinpoint push of personality to offer the film a fundamental dramatic trajectory. "Meet the Robinsons" is a mess, and a sadistically uninspired one at that.

Filmfodder Grade: D