NEW YORK (CNS) — Parents be warned: Your kids will want a robot for Christmas.
If so, blame “Big Hero 6” (Disney), the latest 3D animated adventure from the studio that brought you last year’s cuddly must-have sensation, Olaf the snowman from “Frozen.”
This time, it’s Baymax (voice of Scott Adsit), an inflatable vinyl robot designed by a college student, Tadashi (voice of Daniel Henney), to be a “Personal Health Care Companion.” In other words, Baymax is to serve as both nurse and nanny for Tadashi’s troublesome younger brother, Hiro (voice of Ryan Potter).
Unlike Mary Poppins, Baymax is short on words and discipline. Instead, this distant cousin of the Marshmallow Man offers warm, squishy hugs and a playful demeanour — and steals the movie.
Unfortunately, the rest of “Big Hero 6” is less inventive and follows a familiar playbook. That’s not especially surprising given that the film is loosely based on a Marvel Comics series.
The setting is the city of “San Fransokyo,” a mash-up — as its name obviously suggests — of San Francisco and Tokyo: think cable cars and cherry blossoms. Tadashi and Hiro are orphans (a Disney standard), raised by their sassy Aunt Cass (voice of Maya Rudolph). They share a passion for robotics.
After Tadashi dies in a lab explosion under mysterious circumstances, Hiro uncovers an evil conspiracy (naturally), and sets out to find the bad guys.
Of course, Hiro needs backup. So Baymax gets a high-tech makeover, which turns him into a version of Iron Man. And an assortment of Tadashi’s college buddies are recruited for the adventure: cyclist GoGo Tomago (voice of Jamie Chung), beatnik Wasabi (voice of Damon Wayans Jr.), chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (voice of Genesis Rodriguez), and monster-loving Fred (voice of T.J. Miller).
Superhero feats are not in their nature, however. “We’re nerds,” Wasabi protests.
“No — you can be anyone you want,” Hiro insists. With distinctive costumes and high-tech weapons, the sextet — rounded out by Baymax — is christened “Big Hero 6.”
Directors Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) and Chris Williams (“Bolt”) ramp up the action as “Big Hero 6” morphs into a version of “Revenge of the Nerds.” The film’s Marvel provenance is evident in noisy smash-bang sequences which may be too intense for younger viewers.
Parents will appreciate the movie’s calmer moments which offer good lessons in friendship, self-sacrifice, and resisting temptation.
Preceding “Big Hero 6” is “Feast,” a charming animated short directed by Patrick Osborne. It offers a dog’s-eye view of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, one meal at a time. “Feast” is acceptable for all ages.
The film contains mildly scary sequences, references to puberty and some slightly edgy humour. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
NEW YORK (CNS) — An unlikely babysitter also serves as an unusual image of sanctity in the fundamentally endearing drama “St. Vincent” (Weinstein).
While writer-director Ted Melfi’s feature debut has a broadly appealing message, aspects of its main character’s dodgy lifestyle narrow the scope of its appropriate audience. The film’s approach to moral questions, moreover, requires mature reflection.
Bill Murray is pitch-perfect as Vincent, a hard-drinking, curmudgeonly loner shambling his way through life, cutting ethical corners at every opportunity.
When Vincent acquires a new next-door neighbour in the person of recently divorced single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), the two take an instant dislike to each other. But, with no one else available to mind her 12-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) after school, hardworking hospital lab technician Maggie is forced to turn to Vincent to do the job.
Since Vincent is an inveterate gambler in serious debt to, among others, loan shark Zucko (Terrence Howard), he agrees to the arrangement.
Vincent and Oliver bond over adventures at the race track, stints in Vincent’s favourite dive bar — where Oliver drinks soda, of course — as well as during visits to Vincent’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife Sandy (Donna Mitchell). Sandy lives in a luxurious nursing home whose costly rates clearly eat up most of Vincent’s scant income.
Former boxer Vincent also teaches Oliver, whose small stature and lack of self-defense skills lead to his being bullied, how
to stand up for himself. Increasingly, Oliver learns to look past his gruff caregiver’s obvious flaws and see the hidden goodness within him.
Viewers will appreciate the thoroughly positive portrayal of Oliver’s funny, patient and wise parochial school teacher, Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd). The film’s title derives from a project Brother Geraghty assigns his students: to research someone in their lives who displays saintly qualities.
The script makes a valid point by reminding us that even saints aren’t perfect during their lives here on earth. Yet its unabashed celebration of Vincent’s positive qualities — and the pass it gives to his self-destructive habits and small-scale misdeeds — have to be scrutinized.
This is especially true of Vincent’s objectively adulterous relationship with Russian-born prostitute Daka (Naomi Watts). With Daka pregnant by an unknown father, her link with Vincent eventually evolves into a glumly chaste friendship, and he provides shelter both for her and the baby. But, while one can sympathize with the plight that led to their original connection, its sordid and exploitative nature can’t be overlooked.
Just how much is excusable in a person who is, at heart, unusually nurturing and generous?w Moviegoers well grounded in their faith will know how to apply the holistic vision of Scripture to that issue, taking as their starting point, perhaps, St. Peter’s comforting assertion that “love covers a multitude of sins.”
The film contains brief semi-graphic adultery, a benign view of petty theft, a prostitution theme, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word and much crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
Copyright (c) 2014 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops