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Review: 'Big Hero 6' is good enough

Fred, from left, Honey Lemon, Hiro, puffy Baymax, GoGo Tomago and Wasabi from Disney’s Big Hero 6.
Fred, from left, Honey Lemon, Hiro, puffy Baymax, GoGo Tomago and Wasabi from Disney’s Big Hero 6.
Published Nov. 6, 2014

Disney's purchase of the Marvel universe — lock, stock and superheroes — is bound to expose a few black holes of greed.

Big Hero 6 isn't one of them, but this first invasion of Marvel's comic book sensibility on Disney's animation empire suggests it is possible. This is something the Mouse House and Pixar — another acquisition — did before and better with The Incredibles. Big Hero 6 is brawnier and grasping, a primer for the next generations of Marvel fanboys and girls babysat by video.

It's a familiar boy and his robot story at heart, made unique by multicultural personalities, formed in the futuristic East-West melting pot San Fransokyo. There's a distinct anime influence in names, hairstyles and physical traits, and occasional traces of Miyazaki whimsy. A healthy overseas Asian marketplace awaits this smartly calculated movie.

Hiro Hamada (voice of Ryan Potter) is a brainy teenager who invents swarming miniature robots that can revolutionize everything, it seems. He becomes the owner of Baymax (Scott Adsit), a cuddly, inflatable personal health monitor invented by Hiro's brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney). Baymax is the film's breakout star, like Olaf in Frozen, a cute wrinkle in the formula.

Hiro's minibots are stolen by a mysterious villain in a Kabuki mask, who becomes the object of a vengeful manhunt. Baymax is upgraded to a fighting machine, while retaining enough compassion for goodness lessons later. They're joined by four other meddling kid geniuses in the Scooby-Doo mold, including a shaggy Fred (T.J. Miller) and a sexier Velma named Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung).

Big Hero 6 is second-tier Disney/Marvel entertainment, fine for a day out with the children yet doesn't seem enough, after the creative advances of Wreck-It Ralph and the emotional heft of Frozen. Unlike those comparable risks, this is built with a sequel squarely in mind but what do you call it? Big Hero 6 2?

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.