‘Big Hero Six’
Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Voices of: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit
3 (out of 5) Globes
“Big Hero Six” has some of the best comedic timing and direction in ages, which is odd as it’s a cartoon as well as a Marvel superhero movie. The one curiously called Baymax (voice of Scott Adsit) is an inflatable, synthetic, pot-bellied, humongously adorbs bot originally built as a health care worker. “I’m not fast,” he blankly informs our young, Doogie Howser-ish hero — named Hiro (Ryan Potter) — as an invading baddie bears down upon them. Indeed, before he’s tricked out with new programming and armor, Baymax moves so slow that the movie stops dead for him. Tens of seconds are burned as he patiently navigates through tight spots or applies Scotch tape to tiny holes, the images holding, unmoving, on his plight. Working through phrases in broken old-timey computer speak, Adsit never raises his voice, committed to singlehandedly bringing a busy movie down to his non-speed.
Naturally Baymax is the best part of “Big Hero Six,” but by no means it’s only part. Indeed, the title refers to a team of tech nerds-turned-heroes — like a brainier “Mystery Men” — of which Baymax is simply the clear breakout star. Following the explosive death of his brother and his beloved professor, teen prodigy Hiro teams with Baymax — his bro’s pet invention — and four of his individually gimmicked-out classmates to stop the token unstoppable villain: a guy in a powerful Kabuki mask who can command untold legions of micro-bots to do his bidding.
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In its way, this is a more distinctive Marvel film than "Guardians of the Galaxy." Divorced from the brand’s “Cinematic Universe,” it’s an even mash-up of the comics factory and their owners, Disney, and for the most part borrows the best from both worlds. (Though setting the tale in metropolis- mash-up “San Fransokyo” smacks of not a gag but of mere greedy international synergy. “Babe: Pig in the City” this isn’t.) The action is better than most; animators don’t tend to construct unfollowable chaos action, and the set pieces even finds jokes in having six heroes with a special power each. (During one melee one person’s weapon winds up messing with another’s, until everything’s a mess.) It’s minutely but never distractingly self-aware (“This is our origin story!” one of them chirps as the team first assembles), and even the token super-sized, arbitrary climax makes room for a fit of trippy psychedelia right out of Disney’s “The Black Hole” (but in a good way).
It none of it is nearly as mesmerizing as Baymax, who is like one of the Minions of the “Despicable Me”s except that he’s also E.T. He’s a comic relief who worms his way into the heart without one even noticing. Then again, the sentimentality is its one misstep; let’s just say that there was a time, before franchises really took hold, when one could have a heartbreaking ending and leave it at that. Nowadays filmmakers think having their cake and eating it too is not the sign of a corrupt bureaucracy.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge