Disconcertingly terrible, the kind of misstep that calls for reevaluation, particularly of its previously unsullied writer/director (also animator) Brad Bird. Going all in for uplift with this pep-talk against negativity, Bird dresses his Up With People shtick inside a fable about ‘chosen geniuses’ who bravely go forth (in a manner that looks like kidnapping) to some imaginary-yet-real CGI-heavy TomorrowLand, daring to bring hope and a future back to a dying Earth. The specific palaver (brilliant young girl rekindles former wunderkind’s idealism) has a self-defeating overelaborated production (The Jetsons meets Disney’s Magic Kingdom @ the 1964 World’s Fair) that fails to reach dramatic lift-off or find a thimbleful of logic. And whatever happened to Bird’s deft hand working with limited actors? The man who once found comic nuance in Tom Cruise lets a grizzled George Clooney overcook his character right from the opening shot. And George is the lucky one; disappearing off-screen for half the film. In his stead, two action-oriented female leads (youngish Britt Robertson and younger Raffey Cassidy), both charmless automatons (though only Cassidy actually plays one). Robertson a particular horror, every line & expression a fresh annoyance. Best case scenario: Brad Bird takes Sam Goldwyn’s advice and lets Western Union deliver the messages . . . or send them out with better packaging.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Presumably, Disney was hoping to find another movie franchise in their copyrighted theme park history. (TomorrowLand is long gone from DisneyLand, ya?) It makes the film’s nostalgic trip to the 1964 World’s Fair something of a stretch, but at least a pleasant one since the brief recreation is, along with the film’s cool graphic animated end-credits, the best thing in here. On the other hand, why make a film called TOMORROWLAND and fail to revive the second coolest ‘lost’ ride from the park*: Flying Saucers, sort of floating, air-propelled, Space-Age Dodge ‘Em cars. Infamously hard-to-maintain, the ride was apparently shut down for good in 1966.
CONTEST: *Yes, second coolest ‘lost’ ride from old DisneyLand. Name the ‘first’ coolest and win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of your choice. (Subjective contest, anyone?)
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: For a realistic/down-and-dirty battle royale between Positivity and Negativity, try Mike Leigh’s underrated, surprisingly difficult HAPPY-GO-LUCKY/’08.