Advertisement
  1. Life & Culture

Review: 'Tomorrowland' full of ambitious ideas kids probably won't get

“It’s hard to have ideas and easy to give up,” says Casey Newton, a teenaged optimist played well by rising star Britt Robertson. Casey is more dreamer than genius in Tomorrowland, one of the more challenging pieces of family entertainment you’re likely to find this summer.
“It’s hard to have ideas and easy to give up,” says Casey Newton, a teenaged optimist played well by rising star Britt Robertson. Casey is more dreamer than genius in Tomorrowland, one of the more challenging pieces of family entertainment you’re likely to find this summer.
Published May 21, 2015

It's a small-minded world in Disney's Tomorrowland, a world of disasters, a world of tears with little hope and plenty of fears. All because the human race is dumbing down.

"It's hard to have ideas and easy to give up," someone says in director Brad Bird's ambitiously flawed movie. The theme is vital to Tomorrowland, one of the more challenging pieces of family entertainment you're likely to find this summer, more like Interstellar Lite than a comic book rumble.

That big-talking someone is Casey Newton (like Sir Isaac, perhaps), a teenage optimist played well by rising star Britt Robertson. Casey is more dreamer than genius, with a NASA engineer for a single father (Tim McGraw). Cutbacks are causing the space program to demolish a launching pad that Casey gets arrested for attempting to save.

Bailed out, she finds a mysterious lapel pin in her belongings. Touching it sends Casey into alternate reality Tomorrowland, where anything imaginable is happening. Flying cars, multi-level swimming pools, hover baby carriages, the jet packs we've been promised. Casey's pin runs out of power, sending her home.

Where did this pin come from, and why was it given to Casey? Former boy wonder Frank Walker (George Clooney) has an idea but he's too cynical to believe what Casey's gift could mean. Not with that ominous countdown clock on Frank's table that he won't explain. Or the strangely efficient English girl Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who's the same age as when Frank met her at the 1964 World's Fair — an extended flashback that's a joy to behold.

Readers should be informed that Tomorrowland is co-written with Bird by Damon Lindehof, tapping a similar dimension-bending beat as his TV hit Lost. Like that puzzler, Tomorrowland's plot leads viewers down a few too many rabbit holes without carrots to show for it.

Yet there's a surprising number of salient, even revolutionary notions about human nature and intelligence throughout, none fully explored but enough to make the running time at least 20 minutes too long. Nowhere is that more evident than a climactic monologue sending the movie out with a wistful thud. Children won't dig the talky parts. That's why Bird's here.

Few directors have a knack for making action decipherable like Bird, either in animation (The Incredibles) or live action (Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol). Tomorrowland is no exception but is a surprisingly violent movie; although since the victims are robots, what's a little decapitation and bludgeoning among enemies?

Two scenes stand out in that regard: an assault on Frank's home by Matrix-style agents, with each booby trap's trip and effect distinct for our viewing pleasure, and a ray-gun shoot-'em-up in a collectibles store packed with pop memories to be destroyed.

On the other hand, Bird's designs and CGI effects for the Tomorrowland sequences aren't as gee-whiz as expected. (Paris fares much better.) Aside from Casey's first visit the place is fairly desolate, which is the issue to be resolved. I'm guessing Bird doesn't wish to distract from Lindehof's ideas but it's another reason small children may not be as charmed.

Planning your weekend?

Planning your weekend?

Subscribe to our free Top 5 things to do newsletter

We’ll deliver ideas every Thursday for going out, staying home or spending time outdoors.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

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

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge