How to train your nurse-bot…
Michael Bay’s Autobots have nothing on young inventor Hiro’s microbots. Once assembled into group formations by human braincontrol, beating bigger ’bots in back-alley fights isn’t all they’ve got. Treated with love, they can combine to assume any shape imaginable, building wondrous worlds.
Like Hiro’s microbots, directors Don Hall (Winnie The Pooh) and Chris Williams’ (Bolt) dazzling Disney/Marvel merger exceeds the sum of its lovingly fused parts. On the surface, everything about this science-friendly super-team origin tale cries formula: ‘Scooby-Doo + The Incredibles × E.T. + My Neighbour Totoro × How To Train Your Dragon = payday.’ But the sum also includes something to care about: the bond between Hiro and balloon-like robo-nurse Baymax.
A grief-based link between Disney fairytales and superheroes is set first via our Hiro (Ryan Potter), a 14-year-old orphan who suffers another family loss. E.T.-style, his hurt is salved by “personal healthcare companion” Baymax, a softvoiced (Scott Adsit) marshmallow mash-up of Totoro, WALL•E’s EVE and an eMac.
The cute care provider looks like merch potential on chubby legs, but he disarms even when Hiro weaponises him to tackle a supervillain wielding Hiro’s stolen bots. The heart and humour in Baymax is well sustained: as he gets tipsy (E.T. echoes), diagnoses Hiro’s moods and keeps his barbell eyes out for collateral damage during a car chase, Baymax brings klutzy, gentle touches to city-sized superhero carnage.
The fantasy city of San Fransokyo builds inventive bridges between East and West in nifty gags like the Golden Gate Bridge’s Japanese beams. Its population, a pioneer project for Disney’s ‘Denizen’ programme, easily matches 2014’s similarly bustling The Book Of Life.
That canny rendering extends to Hiro’s buddies, a nerd-pride Scooby gang comprising Jamie Chung’s cool kid, Damon Wayans Jr’s neurotic, Génesis Rodriguez’s brain-box and TJ Miller’s geek. The stereotypes sound simple but clarity is the pay-off at the cleanly characterised climax.
The Disney-dished life lessons (study is good, revenge is bad…) are navigated with brisk sincerity. And that’s fine: messages about nurturing potential are easy to swallow in a film so well-nurtured. “Are you satisfied with your care?” goes Baymax’s catchphrase. Guaranteed.