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Review: Big Hero 6

November 7, 2014

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Big Hero 6 Poster

After delivering one of their biggest and most beloved films with last year’s Oscar-winning Frozen, Disney continues their winning streak with the bighearted and beautifully animated Big Hero 6, opening in theatres this weekend.  It’s glorious.

Loosely based on a Marvel comic of the same name, Big Hero 6 is another animated knockout from the Mouse House, emerging as one of the year’s most entertaining and surprisingly heartfelt films.  And Baymax is the new Olaf, providing the touching centre of the story.

Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) is a teenaged robotics expert who would rather make quick cash at illegal robot fights, than spend time going to school.  Then his beloved older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) takes him on a tour of his university science lab and introduces him to Baymax (Scott Adsit), an inflatable nursing robot that he’s been working on, and Hiro becomes determined to win a scholarship through the annual science fair.

But when Tadashi tragically dies, Hiro is left heartbroken and depressed, until he discovers that Baymax still works, inflating out of his suitcase at any sounds of distress.  When a menacing villain starts threatening their city, they team up with classmates Go Go (Jamie Chung), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), as well as university mascot Fred (T.J. Miller), to stop him.  This includes outfitting Baymax in armour and teaching him how to fight, which threatens to undermine his protective design.

The film will bring in audiences looking for the usual superhero thrills, which Big Hero 6 delivers on the same level as many live action counterparts.  This is an action packed film with several set pieces, and the supporting heroes very much fill out the sidekick roles.  Aside from the loveable slacker Fred, who is given an intriguing and amusing backstory to work with, the other three members of the team are likeable, though not always the most developed.  But as an origin story that could easily lead to more adventures with these endearing characters, the film works well as an inventive piece of world building.

The animation is breathtaking, filling out the fictional metropolis of San Fransokyo with a beautifully detailed mix of Asian and American styles.  But as much as this is a visual delight, Big Hero 6 is also a powerful story about loss and how we grieve, offering a healthy dose of the usual Disney heart in the “non-threatening and huggable” form of Baymax.  It’s this emotional openness that makes the film feel so special, with a certain tenderness to the quieter scenes that had a big impact on me.

The robot becomes a sort of surrogate brother to Hiro, his memory chip representing a part of Tadashi that continues to live on.  The design and movements of Baymax are inspired, and I found myself genuinely moved by what the character stands for, particularly in the ways that the film deals with themes of letting go.  Although a robot, Baymax is a character who represents pure heart, his only real motivation being to keep anyone in his care safe and away from harm.  Like how Olaf was the remaining link to their childhood innocence in Frozen, there is something noble and even inspiring about Baymax.

Scott Adsit delivers an impressive vocal performance, offering just enough small nuances in his carefully mannered deliverance of the lines to give Baymax an arc, allowing the robot to develop more human emotions throughout the film.  Ryan Potter does a nice job bringing to life the likeable and vulnerable protagonist, and if there’s such a thing as a scene stealer in terms of voice acting, then that’s what T.J. Miller provides.  The rock score by Henry Jackman keeps us pumped, as does the new Fall Out Boy song “Immortals” that plays during the training montage and over the end credits.

Big Hero 6 provides big entertainment, an exciting and brightly animated action film where scientific intellect is the greatest superpower, and the word “nerd” is used as a term of endearment.  The film also follows in the tradition of fellow Marvel movies with a priceless stinger after the end credits.  But the deeply touching bond between Hiro and Baymax is the biggest force that this one offers, injecting emotional depth into the film that continues to resonate long after the credits roll, making Big Hero 6 truly soar.  Yes Baymax, I am satisfied with my care.

Preceding Big Hero 6 is Feast, the latest short film from the team behind the masterful, Oscar-winning Paperman.  Following the evolving relationship between a Boston Terrier and his owner, and told almost wordlessly from the dog’s point of view through the series of meals they share, this is a lovely and touching piece of animation that tells a complete story through the beautifully drawn visuals.

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