The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019









Tomorrowland (PG)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Tomorrowland (PG)

George Clooney is a grumpy shut-in who reluctantly joins a plucky teen on her quest to find the awe-inspiring futuristic city she saw in a vision in Tomorrowland, a sweet kid-adventure movie.
As a young boy in the 1960s, Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) liked science and inventing things. He even builds a working jet pack to show as part of a World’s Fair competition — that is, it works in the sense of propelling the rider forward, mostly horizontally, but not so much in the sense of flying. When he shows it to Nix (Hugh Laurie), one of the judges, he seems unimpressed. But Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a little girl who is somehow part of the group of judges, sees potential. She slips him a special lapel pin with a big “T” on it and tells Frank to follow her and the other judges as they ride the “It’s a Small World” ride. Within minutes of entering the ride, Frank is shunted off the main path and soon finds himself in Tomorrowland, the early 1960s version of the future with sleek white buildings and giant robots that even fix his jetpack to make it truly fly. Frank is as dazzled by this new world as he is by Athena.
As a young girl in the early 2000s, preschool-aged Casey Newton (Shiloh Nelson) knew all the star formations and dreamed of traveling into space. Now that she’s a teenager (Britt Robertson), so strong is her love of the idea of space travel that she spends her nights sabotaging the construction equipment tasked with dismantling a NASA launch pad. Not only does the lack of manned space travel put a damper on her dreams, but her dad, Eddie (Tim McGraw), a NASA engineer, will lose his job when the dismantling is complete. On one nighttime visit to the restricted area, Casey is nabbed by the police — and spotted by someone we will soon realize is Athena, who still looks to be the same age as when Frank met her back in the day. As she retrieves her personal items after posting bail, Casey finds a pin — the familiar “T” lapel pin — among her belongings. Every time she touches it, she’s transported to a field of golden wheat where the shining Tomorrowland city glitters in the distance. 
After a few glimpses of this world, Casey finds a way to travel into the Tomorrowland city, full of its hover trains, its blend of modern hipster and 1960s fashion, its test drives of new and improved jet packs and its group of astronauts readying for space travel. Come aboard the ship, one of them says to Casey, we’ve saved a seat especially for you.
Casey eagerly rushes aboard just as the power of the pin runs out. Desperate to get back to Tomorrowland, she tries to track down information on the pin — first running into a few groups of bad-guy robots before finally meeting up with Athena. She (Athena) tells Casey that she (Casey) has Athena’s final pin and is her final recruit. To get to Tomorrowland, Athena tells Casey she’ll need to meet up with Frank Walker, which is how Casey ends up at the falling-apart, secluded home of the curmudgeon Frank (George Clooney), who tries to shoo her off with a hologram dog and a force field on his door. Once he realizes she has a Tomorrowland connection — and once more robots show up gunning for them both — Frank agrees to help Casey in her quest. 
Though a mere 54 years old, Clooney is a good grump, cut from the same cloth as the Ed Asner-voiced character from Up. I’m not saying he should turn in his tux and walk away from all future romantic-lead or suave-guy parts, but there’s something refreshing about seeing him do something else. His grumpitude grounds his partnership with Casey as something more grandfatherly than mentor-student or even father-daughter and helps give the movie a sense of nostalgia that it wouldn’t have if it had a kid-focused cast or featured a younger actor in the Frank role.
The movie reminds me in tone of what I remember from Flight of the Navigator-era kid sci-fi and even a bit of 2011’s Super 8 (though without that movie’s darker side). Like a cupcake that’s not quite baked, this movie has a mushiness at its core — for a movie called Tomorrowland we actually don’t get as much of a look at the wonders of Tomorrowland as you’d think. And the movie is, occasionally, boring. Not horribly boring, not boring in the I’d-rather-be-in-a-coma way that broad comedies or mindless action movies seem to specialize in — Tomorrowland is, like, sweetly boring. Boring in the way that the third consecutive viewing of one episode of a children’s television program can be boring; you’re not particularly interested in the plot or the characters but you’re not offended because you know what you’re watching isn’t, primarily, for you.
And, as children’s storytelling goes, Tomorrowland is fairly solid — I’m thinking upper grades of elementary school through whatever point in middle school your kid would refuse to watch. Its message is one of optimism over defeatism. It cheers on the kid who builds a crazy thingamabob invention, even if it doesn’t work, and urges them to keep at it until they can make it work. And while there is something of a dystopic flavor it how it views the modern world, it doesn’t have some tiresome “fight The Man” viewpoint like so many of the YA adaptations of recent years. It mostly argues for dreamers and innovators to keep dreaming and innovating — suggesting, in the end, that your ballerinas and your judges can be just as important to creating a better world as your scientists. 
With that much hopefulness and “STEM for everybody!” cheeriness, it’s hard not to forgive the movie its lumpy, underdone center. B-
Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language. Directed by Brad Bird from a screenplay by Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof, Tomorrowland is two hours and 10 minutes long and is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 

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