We start in the sprawling metropolis of San Fransokyo (a fusion of San Francisco and Tokyo) and super-genius 15-year-old Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) who gets into trouble playing illegal robot-fighting for big bucks. His equally smart big brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney) turns Hiro’s life around when he introduces him to his college, the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. Robotics and uber-science are all the rage here and Hiro is mesmerized. He wants in… badly! But first he must prove himself worthy to Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell), the head of the robotics program, at a special science exhibition.
Hiro wins his scholarship with his super-cool invention: micro-bots. They’re 1″ long bots that, when thousands are brought together telepathically through a neural-cranial transmitter, they will form anything! Wow! However Hiro’s enjoyment is short lived when a mysterious fire and explosion destroys his bots and kills his brother.
At home with his loving Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph), a grieving Hiro gets a visit from Baymax (Scott Adsit), a personal healthcare robot that Tadashi invented. He’s a big marshmallow-like sweetheart of a bot that just wants to take of you. But there’s no time for healthcare; a leftover micro-bot leads them to a dangerous Kabuki-wearing masked man who stole Hiro’s micro-bots and neural-cranial transmitter.
What’s this guy up to, anyway? Before he can find out, Hiro meets up with other college science nerds who want to help. They all go by their lab nicknames: Go-Go (Jamie Chung) who’s tough, athletic, and created a super-fast electromagnetic wheel, Wasabi (Damon Wayans, jr) a laser expert and neat-freak, Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), a mad scientist chemistry whiz, and Fred (T.J. Miller), who is just the school mascot, but loves comic books. (inside joke. . . check out who his father is).
After they discover that the villain could be Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk), a cost-cutting tech guru that caused a horrible scientific accident, Hiro figures it was him that killed his brother, and that they should go after this guy. He even outfits the gang as superheros with their own costumes and weapons, even upgrading the lovable Baymax with a flashy red armored super-hero outfit. Hiro gets into the chase, but a little too much, as his hatred for the masked man grows, especially when he discovers who he really is.
The ending fight is a whirlwind of techo-science and friendship coming together vs the bad guy as the city of San Fransokyo is almost torn apart. The finale has a happy ending, naturally, but this is what happens when you have a wonderful fusion of Marvel and Disney combined.
Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams (who gave us Winnie the Pooh and Bolt), we finally have a ‘dude film’ with no princesses or singing anywhere, thanks to screenwriters Robert L. Baird, Dan Gerson, and Jordan Roberts, who just kept it clever, simple, and sweet. Nothing complicated or over-the-top here in the story, just an A to B to C plot that works due to the rich characters, the crisp dialogue, the touching moments, and tried ‘n’ true Pixar formula of “make ’em laugh, then make ’em cry”. Which, truth be told, I did choke up a few times during this movie. Yes, it’s aimed at the kiddies in the audience, but the adults will have just as much fun.
P.S. Before the movie, enjoy the delightful Disney animated short feature, Feast. A funny and poignant story of a guy from his teens through marriage, and all from the perspective of his lovable dog, Winston, and what he (they) love to eat. Just perfect.
The Iron Giant (1999)