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Big Hero 6

“Big Hero 6” is a big, fun kid’s movie with a lot of heart and a surprisingly melancholy core.  It’s about a 14 year old robotics genius named Hiro.  Hiro’s older brother, Tadashi, is also pretty good with robots, and enrolled at a robotic school. His main project is Baymax, a “personal health care companion.”  Baymax is a big marshmallow of a guy with a soft-soothing voice and a mandate to heal anyone who’s hurting.

Hiro really wants to go to the same school as his brother, and comes up with a genius idea, but on the night of his big presentation, someone sets the building on fire and steals his technology.  Even worse, his brother dies in the fire, and Hiro loses all desire to do basically anything at all.

All that’s left of his brother is his project. When Baymax finds out that Hiro’s wounds are primarily emotional, he contacts Hiro’s friends, because his medical index says that friends and empathy are the best medicine for grief. These are a colorful assortment of other students at the school, with names like Honey Lemon and Wasabi.  Also there’s Fred, one of my favorite character in the film.  He’s not a student, more of a mascot, and he’s pretty sure that his friends can’t invent things like invisible sandwiches because they’re not really trying.

Hiro is able to convince Baymax that his emotional state will improve if they can figure out who stole his nanobot technology and killed his brother in the process, so suddenly the scrawny kid has a big, powerful sidekick.  He becomes even more powerful with Hiro’s modifications, as do all of Hiro’s friends — he takes all the projects they were working on at the school and weaponizes them. This kid should work for SHIELD.

“Big Hero 6” is a fun mix of light action, humor, and warmth.  I guess technically it’s a superhero movie – it was developed from a Marvel property – but it hardly feels like it. It’s much more interested in the characters than in their powers, which seem pretty superfluous.  It’s really a movie about wrestling with grief, and about the emptiness of seeking revenge. Hiro very nearly becomes exactly like the villain he is fighting, but it’s his friends who pull him back from the edge.

Several times while watching “Big Hero 6” (which has become my son’s favorite movie, so I’ve seen it several times) I was reminded of “E.T.”  Both films are about an outsider with limited understanding but endless empathy helping a kid to make sense of the world he lives in, and the scary things he’s feeling. Instead of the suburban malaise of “E.T.” though, the pain of “Big Hero 6” is far more acute – Tadashi is a real character, and you really feel it when Hiro loses him. The film doesn’t back away from that, but the way it’s handled – both gentle and real – meant that my kids didn’t back away from it.  The ever-present Baymax certainly helps – it’s amazing that a character who is probably 95% air can be so soothing, lovable, and memorable.  I doubt I can pull it off, but if I could, I’d love to be Baymax for Halloween this year.

 

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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