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Big Hero 6 Movie Review

Big Hero 6: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art
Big Hero 6 is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo.

Disney's Big Hero 6 (2014) movie poster Big Hero 6

Theatrical Release: November 7, 2014 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams / Writers: Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, Jordan Roberts (screenplay); Duncan Rouleau, Steven T. Seagle (characters)

Voice Cast: Scott Adsit (Baymax), Ryan Potter (Hiro Hamada), Daniel Henney (Tadashi Hamada), T.J. Miller (Fred), Jamie Chung (Go Go Tomago), Damon Wayans Jr. (Wasabi), Genesis Rodriguez (Honey Lemon), James Cromwell (Professor Robert Callaghan), Alan Tudyk (Alistair Krei), Maya Rudolph (Aunt Cass), Abraham Benrubi (General), Katie Lowes (Abigail), Billy Bush (Newscaster), Daniel Gerson (Desk Sergeant), Paul Briggs (Yama), Charlotte Gulezian (Ringleader), David Shaughnessy (Heathcliff), Stan Lee (Fred's Dad)
Big Hero 6 is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100  Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Big Hero 6 ranks 45th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

Buy Big Hero 6 from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

The acquisition of Marvel has given Disney the top two grossing films of this year. It's also given them access to most of Marvel's exhaustive library of characters.
While most would agree that Marvel Studios is doing a fine job making movies adapted from Marvel comic books, it's nice to have the option to give someone else at Disney a try. That occurs on Big Hero 6, which lets Walt Disney Animation Studios, riding a hot streak off the Oscar-winning, $1.2 billion-grossing Frozen, adapt a rather obscure series of comic books launched in 1998.

An obscure source may challenge marketing departments, but it can be something of a blessing for filmmakers. For proof of that, look no further than Guardians of the Galaxy, the best-attended and perhaps best-loved of all 2014 releases. That film benefitted from most moviegoers having no real idea what to expect coming in. It wasn't a sequel or a reboot attempting to retell an often-told origin story. There was nothing sacred about the characters and no major prior filming to live up to.

Big Hero 6 is very much in the same boat and it even has another liberating feature, by not bearing the Marvel name or adhering to the prevailing PG-13 superhero movie mold. This is a PG-rated animated film and one whose comic book origins will likely remain unknown to the majority of parents and kids attending it. Billed "from the creators of Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen", the film wields the weight of the Disney Animation brand and not even the timeless classical music fairy tales but a couple of hip, recent blockbusters that many of all ages found highly entertaining.

Hiro Hamada finds an unlikely friend in Baymax, a robotic health care companion invented by his older brother.

Much more Wreck-It Ralph than Frozen and most comparable to Meet the Robinsons out of the previously 53-deep canon, Big Hero 6 is set in the city of San Fransokyo (which lives up to its name as a hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo) in the seemingly not so distant future. Fourteen-year-old Hiro Hamada spends his time partaking in underground bot fights for money. Posing as a young naif, Hiro and his personally engineered, remote-controlled bot can hustle the best of them to illegal financial gain. Hiro's big brother Tadashi gently encourages the prodigy, who he clumsily exposits graduated high school at 13, to check out his college, San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. This so-called "nerd school" is a paradiscal playground to Hiro, who is in awe of the high-tech gadgetry being developed by his brother and four fellow science geeks.

Tadashi's big invention is Baymax, an inflatable robotic personal health care companion. A rotund, marshmallow-like anthropomorphic creature with a face that's blank apart from barbell-shaped eyes, Baymax is designed to help those requiring medical attention, which he provides calmly with questions, answers, and instant body scans. Baymax becomes a kind of guide for Hiro as the boy tries to track down a supply of microbots, his own big invention devised to gain admission to SFIT. What Hiro and Baymax find is a menacing mystery man in a kabuki mask who has apparently stolen Hiro's potent, near-limitless technology to serve his own personal interests.

No more needs to be said about the film's plot. It is framed slightly like a mystery and unfolds with a couple of big twists you should be able to predict right before their reveals without any spoilers. That isn't troubling, because Big Hero 6 is less a mystery and more an adventure. It's a superhero movie in which the heroes aren't that super, just very smart and savvy. A group dynamic emerges when Hiro and Baymax are joined by Tadashi's classmates, who you discover were worth the introductions the film gave them. They've all got nicknames, distinct interests and personalities. The most outstanding character of them is Fred (noticeably voiced by T.J. Miller), a party dude who is school mascot but not a student and not in the economic bracket you'd expect.

Hiro feels at home surrounded by science nerds at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

Adapted from Marvel comics, Big Hero 6 inevitably features some action. You might feel it's obligatory or, being a PG Disney movie, tame, but neither of those labels fits. As someone who is quickly tired by even well-made action sequences that run too long and don't do anything new (see Captain America: The Winter Soldier), I was happy that Big Hero 6 keeps its conflict creative and does not overextend it. The action bits work because the universe and the characters have been thoroughly established and developed.
Some formula elements (a foreseeable death, a somewhat obvious misdirect) advance the plot at times. I think you've got to just take such moments in stride and you will because the movie is smart, funny, touching, and exciting enough to not have to be completely original and brilliant.

On the basis of The Incredibles alone, Pixar is probably the most obvious choice for a Disney-owned animation studio to tackle a Marvel superhero film. While that might happen some day, the best thing about Pixar has been their ability to cultivate original ideas into delightful storytelling. That is a quality that has been missed in the past few years as the industry's standard bearer has sort of underwhelmed with incongruous, inferior franchise extensions, one good but not quite great original film, and a rare off year. Thankfully, Pixar has two original films scheduled for release next year and Brad Bird is supposedly going to give the public the one Pixar sequel everyone seems to want in a long-overdue second Incredibles. Meanwhile, Pixar's last few releases have not just dragged down the company's batting average, they have also enabled the competition to catch up.

Disney Animation has caught up as well as anyone. Just nine years ago, the feature division that began with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was in the midst of an identity crisis as they moved from traditional methods to computer animation adopting a tone akin to DreamWorks. That is but a distant memory now and Pixar's head honcho John Lasseter may be most responsible for the image makeover. With Lasseter in control of both studios' output, Pixar's emphasis on story has rubbed off on Disney Animation, whether they are adding to their legacy of musical fairy tales, showing Winnie the Pooh the respect he deserves, or adapting an obscure Marvel comic book series. Even those like me not terribly impressed by Frozen have to acknowledge that the gap between Pixar and other animation studios, especially Disney's, has narrowed. For a while, there was Pixar, then space bar, space bar, space bar, everyone else.

Even in just this soon-ending first half of the decade, though, we've seen a number of non-Pixar animated movies that could compare to at least the midrange of the CGI pioneers' 20-year canon: Rango, Wreck-It Ralph, The Lego Movie. And now, Big Hero 6. It may not be a game-changer and it's far too soon to know if fifteen years from now a new edition of this film will warrant heavy promotion and excitement or a more muted response. What's more important, now, is that Disney Animation is regularly demonstrating they can still craft films worthy of being added to a list that includes such masterpieces as Pinocchio, The Jungle Book, and The Lion King. They've got the talent and the technology to make something visually dazzling and structurally significant while working in a wide variety of genres and styles. They are once again capable of making movies that are just as good as many of the best live-action films of the year, even if they won't get recognized as such by awards shows or many critics.

Equipped with new armor and defense techniques, Baymax and Hiro soar above San Fransokyo.

In theaters, Big Hero 6 is preceded by Feast, a new Walt Disney Animation Studios short film about a dog named Winston whose feeding methods change in conjunction with his owner's relationship status. Void of dialogue but full of style, this 3D 'toon from Patrick Osborne, an animaton supervisor on Disney's Oscar-winning Paperman, might be mistaken for a Pixar short if not for the departure of its visuals. Though enjoyable (if a tad trite), it demanded a little more comprehension than the average viewer might bring. But I may just have been distracted by the out-of-focus nature of its projection. It might have a better shot at winning Osborne another Animated Short Oscar than Big Hero 6 does of giving Disney back-to-back Animated Feature wins. Hero certainly has the advantage of opportune timing over The Lego Movie, but the slightly superior latter will have had a full year to win over audiences by the time the golden envelope is opened.

The Big Hero 6 Shop is now open and ready for action at Disney Store!

Buy Big Hero 6 from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Big Hero 6
Walt Disney Animation Studios: Wreck-It Ralph Frozen Meet the Robinsons Tangled Winnie the Pooh Bolt
Non-Disney Animation: The Incredibles The Lego Movie Rango Monsters University
2014 Marvel: Guardians of the Galaxy Captain America: The Winter Soldier The Amazing Spider-Man 2 X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Reviewed November 7, 2014.

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