3 out of 5 stars (average)
Disney is a fascinating company. In the past few years, they have produced several live-action family fare during the summertime in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Last year’s Maleficent was one of these films, and while I found it to be a decent time at the movies, it was far from what it could have been. I was growing tired of Disney making big promises and not being able to deliver on them, so much so that I dreaded it when I found that the company was making a sci-fi film starring George Clooney. I never thought that I would see George Clooney, an actor of extremely high prowess, in a film produced by the House of Mouse. When the advertisements came, I was worried that it would not deliver on what it promised: a classic Disney fantasy. Thus far, reviews of this film are mixed, citing that there is a lack of emotional depth. I’m here to say that I like this film because it is a fun, action-filled ride for the whole family (pre-teens and up, at least). Tomorrowland dazzles with its great visuals, well-shot action, and interesting characters, making for the first good time I’ve had at the movies this summer.
The film follows Casey (Britt Robertson), a reckless teenager in Cape Canaveral whose father (Tim McGraw) is about to be fired due to the launch pad being shut down. She has tried to hinder this by messing with the technology on the pad, but to no avail. Though everyone around Casey has given up on changing things, just accepted them as they are, she still sees room for change, and is just waiting for an opportunity to do that.
She gets that chance when a pin shows up with her stuff after she is arrested for messing with the tech again. When she holds the pin, she discovers that it takes her to the future, filled with chrome, jetpacks, and time machines. Realistically, she freaks out, but then decides to figure out where the pin came from and why she got it. This journey will have her cross paths with Frank Walker (Clooney), a mysterious man who holds the answers and an interesting little girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). These two will change Casey’s life in a way she never imagined.
I love George Clooney. He is able to legitimize nearly any role he’s in because of his great screen presence and delivery. He brings all he can to the table here, and it helps elevate the movie quite a bit. This isn’t his best performance, but he is still as engaging as ever. Britt Robertson does fine, but is a bit overshadowed by the more experienced actors in the film. However, Robertson kept my attention and made me care about the character, something that very few young stars can do with this type of role (Garrett Hedlund in Tron: Legacy could not pull this off at all, read my review of that here). Hugh Laurie, best known for his roles as the titular House and the father in the Stuart Little movies, does some fine work here. He too was engaging and was perfectly cast. Again, while I will always think of him as Gregory House, this character is more memorable than he had any right to be because Laurie played it. The final acting note I should speak of is newcomer Raffey Cassidy. She did very well for a child actress, and I look forward to seeing what she does next. I liked her immediately, and that is a true rarity. I find child actors annoying most of the time, but Cassidy was right on mark throughout the film.
The credit for that goes squarely on director Brad Bird (who also co-wrote the script with Damon Lindelof of Star Trek: Into Darkness). Bird is a great director, providing me with some of the most memorable (and favorite) film experiences. Bird also directed The Incredibles and the iconic The Iron Giant. Both of these films are very good and show what cinema can do when the right man is behind the camera. Bird knows how to shoot action in a way that is exhilarating and absorbing. He does not use ShakeyCam, in which the director will shake the camera to make up for poor fighting choreography, but actually lets you see what the heck is going on. It’s rare where I can complement the action in a film that isn’t from Marvel, and I always love to do it.
Though the acting and action are great, the pacing threw me off at first. I was nervous at the start that the movie would be kiddish and silly, but that problem is evened out quickly enough. I think children will enjoy the visuals and action sequences even if they don’t understand what is going on. This doesn’t feel like a “Disney” film, in that they don’t really dumb anything down. Most of the elements are fully realized and it doesn’t feel like anything important was left on the cutting room floor for time (I’m looking right at you, Age of Ultron). This film isn’t a classic by any means, but as a fun summer family movie, Tomorrowland is a trip worth taking.
Rated PG for Sequences of Sci-Fi Action Violence and Peril, Thematic Elements, and Language (there are two incompleted SOBs and a few milder words, but it’s not too bad).