A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that even very young children will dig this Disney animated adventure, although it may be too intense for some. The story revolves around Lewis, a genius orphan who desperately wants to meet his real mother. There's a sense that he and his friends at the orphanage feel rejected -- he counts 124 couples he's met who don't end up adopting him -- but he's still take care of and encouraged by adults. The cartoon violence is owed mostly to the movie's villains -- a robotic bowler hat and the mysterious mustachioed man who wears it. The Bowler Hat Guy suffers from severe jealousy and bitterness, which is why he wants to ruin Lewis' future. But the future, as it turns out, is bright for all, even Lewis' nemesis. Parents of adopted children may be especially concerned with the way the orphans and the adoption process are depicted.
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What's the story?
In MEET THE ROBINSONS, Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen) isn't just an orphan -- he's a child genius. He invents practical gadgets, like a peanut-butter-and-jelly gun that makes sandwich preparation a cinch. He has scared off, by his count, 124 sets of potential parents. In hopes of finally seeing the mother who left him at the orphanage's doorstep, Lewis works tirelessly on a memory machine that projects specific recollections onto a TV monitor. After a mix up at the school science fair, he winds up having to zoom to the future with a mysterious young boy. Trying to explain the movie's time-traveling plot is as confusing as Terminator, but the point of the future is to show young Lewis that he fits nicely into a zany family: the Robinsons, who have more wacky relatives than the Addamses, the Fockers, and the Tenenbaums. After Lewis fails to fix a PB&J device, the Robinsons celebrate his failure as a path to success. And when the film's villain -- a mustachioed man with a robotic bowler hat -- unleashes a T-Rex on the family, the clan joins forces to defend the young inventor. At last, he has a home -- at least in the future.
Is it any good?
The multi-generational relationships, especially in the future, are endearing. The Robinson clan seems loony at first, but as the future continues, they quickly grow on you as exactly the kind of brood Lewis would naturally be drawn to (and with good reason, but you have to see it to understand). It may not be as touching as Finding Nemo, as technically brilliant as Cars, or as parent-appealing as The Incredibles,, but Meet the Robinsons is an entertaining step in the right direction for Disney's non-Pixar offerings.
And who doesn't love an orphan hero? Plucky orphans are perfect protagonists in children's adventures. Whether human (Annie, Oliver Twist) or animal (Stuart Little, Wilbur), they're the ultimate underdogs, and only the most hardened heart could root against them. Luckily, Lewis is not the typical orphan suffering under the rule of cruel-hearted adults. He's surrounded by compassionate grown ups who genuinely want to foster his brilliance -- from the orphanage's director (Angela Bassett) to his encouraging science teacher, and of course, the Robinsons, who all believe that mistakes and failures only make you better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the Robinsons believe that failing is good. Can you think of a time that you didn't win but you still learned something useful? And, for fun, since Lewis is an aspiring inventor, name some inventions that you think would be useful in the future.
How are orphans depicted in the movie? Does the movie make kids who aren't adopted seem sad and lonely? Do you think that's how orphans must feel? Name some other famous orphans in movies and books.
How does the movie compare to the William Joyce book on which it's based? Kids: Had you read the book before you watched the movie? If not, did you know it was based on a book?
Do you like movies that are based on books/stories more than ones that aren't? What are some of the best book-to-movie adaptations?
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