If the recent glut of superhero movies has proven too much in the last few yeas (yet the family still wants you to take them) Big Hero 6 is your answer. The characters still come from Marvel Comics and, yes, it’s still a superhero film but it’s also a Disney animated feature and that changes everything.
Set in some strange hybrid city called San Fransokyo where all-American characters have names like Wasabi and Tadashi, a fourteen year-old hero-to-be called Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) seeks revenge for the death of his older brother. Together with a few odd ball nerd friends – imagine the characters from TV’s The Big Bang Theory inventing their own superhero costumes – and a pudgy robot called Baymax who looks something like a cross between My Neighbor Totoro and an oversized version of the Pillsbury Doughboy, the heroic team set out to stop a masked supervillain from expanding his evil empire across the city.
Despite the large assortment of characters, it’s the cuddly Baymax that’s going to win the hearts and minds of the film’s target audience. Voiced with the sound of great affection by Scott Adsit, Baymax was designed by Hiro’s older brother as a healthcare provider, an inflatable ghostly-white robot programmed to diagnose a health issue and to offer instant pain relief. Because of its size and its ability to respond to any new programming the young Hiro can invent, Baymax changes from a caregiver and becomes a flying, fighting force of indispensable power, making up the numbers of the new, young team of crime-fighters who call themselves Big Hero 6.
Very loosely based on a lesser known Marvel adventure of the same name, those who follow the comics will notice the absence of two characters, Silver Samurai and Sunfire. Both are in the book but the film rights to the characters are owned by 20th Century Fox to be used in the X-Men series. Instead we have Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung) a young woman of few words but deadly when it comes to spinning wheels, Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) a heavy-set voice of reason with a talent for laser cutting, Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) an enthused chemistry nerd who seems excited at just about anything, and Fred (T.J.Miller) the comic relief, slacker-type who loves his superhero costume of a fiery breathing monster known as Fredzilla. Rounding out the heroic six is young Hiro and Baymax.
As expected, the animation is first class, yet with each new computer generated production there’s always something in the design that never ceases to amaze. Here it’s the overall look of San Fransokyo that draws your focus. East seamlessly meets west in a wonderfully stylized version of what it would look like if California merged with Tokyo.
The film is also very funny. Unlike the recent South Park/Family Guy influenced trend of incorporating zingers every few seconds, the humor in Big Hero 6 develops more naturally out of the situation. When the heroes don their new costumes for the first time, Wasabi has to readjust the material around his more sensitive areas. “Anyone’s suit riding up on them?” he asks as he reaches down in order to makes himself more comfortable, and during a high-speed action sequence through the city streets when driver Hiro puts on the brakes at a stop-light, Go Go Tomago declares, “There are no red lights in a car chase!” Plus, when the battery power that generates Baymax starts running low, the robot acts like a child who accidentally drank too much of dad’s alcohol.
What makes Big Hero 6 so much fun is neither the action nor the story of a team of young scientists clubbing together to over-power San Fransokyo’s new enemy, it’s the characters themselves, all six of them. Hiro, Baymax and the team are so well rounded and such fun to be with, it wouldn’t matter what the core adventure was about, it’s just being in their company that makes it all tick. Also, being a Disney feature, the attention to detail in the animation and the sense of joy and heart at the center of the relationships makes the film work so well. The climactic action may get a little too busy during the final ten minutes and go on for longer than the story needs, but Big Hero 6 is a winner.
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 93 Minutes Overall Rating: 8 (out of 10)