I’ve witnessed a lot of solid critics trying to justify Brad Bird’s overzealous “Tomorrowland”, from Walt Disney Studios. “It’s ambitious”, or “it’s heart is in the right place”, are among the decrees. But, just like it failed for audiences, it didn’t work for me either. Clunky, uneven, confusing, and overreaching–the entire enterprise just fall apart in the 3rd act. The trailers were so promising because it just looked so cool. Plus, it’s got George Clooney, and he never messes up, right? Ummm, have you seen the awful, “The Monuments Men”? Trust me–gorgeous George is human. And after a string of brilliant film work, so is Mr. Bird, apparently.
There’s an awful LOT of plot in “Tomorrowland”, as it opens with a flashback to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and then leads us into a web of secret societies, teleportation, and alternate realities. The end of the world is nigh, it seems–unless some major last minute changes can be enacted. We meet Frank Walker as a child inventor (Thomas Robinson), before he becomes a salt-and-pepper haired recluse (Mr. Clooney). Soon, there are “magical” lapel pins, and artificially intelligent robots, while Casey Newton (an impressive Britt Robertson) teams with the adult Frank in a high-tech attempt to rescue the planet. Oh, and a major product plug for Coca-Cola bugged the crap out of me.
For something that attempts to be a bit cerebral, “Tomorrowland’ eventually descends into standard blockbuster scenarios, along with the typical gunplay and cartoonish PG-level violence. I followed along with some interest for half of it, occasionally groaned at some choices, and ultimately faded out when it dove towards its frenzied finale. Hugh Laurie is ominous as David Nix, Tomorrowland’s leader, but his character arc is curious. And Raffey Cassidy is adorable and affecting as Athena. Also, it looks great most of the time. But unfortunately “Tomorrowland” fails to be light on its feet, and falls with a thud. “It tried”, should not be used as a catch-all.
next review up: “The Revenant”