A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tomorrowland is a live-action Disney adventure starring George Clooney about innovators from the past and present who unite to save the world. Although it's tween friendly, the movie does contain some startlingly violent action sequences: Robotic villains shoot and kill people in several scenes, instantly disintegrating them -- sometimes disturbingly casually (the body count undermines the movie's otherwise all-ages appeal). Main characters are in near-constant peril; they're shot at, they fall from heights, they get in furious hand-to-hand fights, and more. One significant character appears to die, and another actually does, in a sad scene. Language includes insults like "idiot" and "stupid," plus "damn," "hell," and some cut-off phrases like "son of a!" While there's no substance use or racy content, there is a whole lot of consumerism, primarily due to the nonstop Disney references (the movie's title and themes were inspired by an area of Disneyland) and the prominent presence of brands like Coke, Pepsi, iPhone, and more. Still, families will appreciate the clearly positive messages about using innovation, invention, and engineering to make the future a brighter, better place.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
TOMORROWLAND is a sci-fi adventure that starts with curmudgeonly Frank Walker (George Clooney) discussing how the future was different when he was a kid. In a flashback to the 1964 New York World's Fair, a young Frank (Thomas Robinson) enters a competition for inventors with his homemade jet pack; the head judge (Hugh Laurie) isn't overly impressed, but a mysterious young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) appreciates Frank's enthusiasm and gives him a magical "T" pin that unlocks the gateway to Tomorrowland. Fifty years later, in the present, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is the brilliant, optimistic daughter of a soon-to-be-unemployed NASA engineer (Tim McGraw). Athena (still looking like a little girl) secretly leaves Casey the same kind of "T" pin she gave Frank so long ago. When Casey finds it, she's transported to a bright and shiny alternate dimension. Soon, thanks to Athena's involvement, Casey travels across the country to meet Frank; together they must find their way back to Tomorrowland so they can save the Earth's future.
Is it any good?
Director Brad Bird delivers spectacular visuals and thrilling action sequences. Unfortunately, the unnecessarily convoluted plot, disturbingly casual violence, and heavy-handed messages make for an ultimately underwhelming experience. Considering the movie's hype and Bird's reputation (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant), Tomorrowland was expected to be one of 2015's best family films. And while kids are bound to enjoy the sci-fi spectacle aspects, some adults will wonder what the fuss is about, and cynics may well stand firm in their belief that it's basically a two-hour commercial for Disneyland/Disney World's Tomorrowland.
The movie offers undeniably positive messages: Dreamers have to stick together, ideas are worth fighting for, knowing how things work is important, and inventors must never give up on their innovations, because they can literally change the future. These are all worthy ideas that kids (and adults) should take to heart. But messages and eye-popping visuals aside, the story is missing an important layer of emotional depth. Casey barely thinks twice about abandoning her father and brother to go in search of answers about her mysterious "T" pin. The villains remain rather unexplained outside of the Agent Smith-like robots who can dematerialize innocent passersby, police officers, and pretty much anyone who gets in their way. And it takes way too long for everyone to make their way back to Tomorrowland. Still, despite the movie's many flaws, the performances (what a standout Cassidy is as Athena!) and action scenes will entertain viewers -- just not enough to claim a spot in the canon among the best Disney films.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of movies about the future. How does the future in Tomorrowland -- both the fantasy version and the more Earth-bound one -- compare to other movies that tackle the topic? What do you think the future will be like?
Are Casey and Frank role models? Both make dangerous choices (and in Casey's case, even illegal), but their goals are ultimately positive ones. Does that excuse everything they do?
What do you think about all of the movie's Disney references and themes? Would you have liked it as much without them? Does the movie make you want to visit Tomorrowland in Disneyland or Disneyworld? Do you think that was the intent?
- In theaters: May 22, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 13, 2015
- Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie
- Director: Brad Bird
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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