There are several instances when Brad Bird‘s latest film “Tomorrowland” comes off the hinges like a door desperately trying to say attached to a house in the middle of a tornado. Sure its beautifully polished from an aesthetics stand point, with rich and beautiful production design by Scott Chambliss, but little else to grab onto in terms of a script or just a normal comfort adventure movie, Bird’s film turns out to be his most ambitious failure.
“Tomorrowland” tells the story of former boy genius Frank (played by Oscar-winner George Clooney) and optimistic teen genius Casey (played by 25 YEAR OLD Britt Robertson), who both embark on a journey to “Tomorrowland,” which sits in an unknown time and space dimension. With danger on their tail, what they discover may change our world forever.
Trenching through humor that fits well for a silly Nickelodeon sitcom, “Tomorrowland” offers little moments of satisfaction that aren’t as consistent for a bloated, 130 minute prequel to every disaster or science movie ever made. The screenplay by Bird, Damon Lindelof (responsible for “Prometheus” and “World War Z”), and Jeff Jensen (in his feature film story credit debut) is a jumbled, dour farce of an adventure movie that desperately attempts to capture the charm of such classics like “Back to the Future” but fails miserably. From the opening sequence of Clooney narrating, only to continue to be interrupted the young Casey trying to inflict her own version of events, you can see the frantic determination to get the audience to chuckle. Eye-rolling will become a new Olympic sport after people get through it.
For a Disney film, “Tomorrowland” is overwhelmingly dispiriting and demoralizing. All it eventually has to say is humans are terrible and we will be responsible for own demise. Understandable but I’m pretty sure that’s been said countless times in the post-invention of “talkies.” I get it, we suck, and everything around us has been giving us signs that we are continuing to make poor choices minute to minute but to bring in a bipartisan approach to speaking about how simultaneously hunger and obesity exist in the same world is a little to heavy for my young mind to enjoy. The film also embraces a high level of violence for a ‘PG’ movie which is yet just another example of how the MPAA is a misguided organization. I didn’t realize decapitation and severing body parts was looked upon with such lightness by our nation’s children. Oh yeah, and dropping 200 kilotons of machinery onto a helpless body. Yep, kids love that stuff.
Worst of all, “Tomorrowland” embodies a high level of discomfort that hints at pedophilia. The insertion of a young girl Athena, played by Raffey Cassidy, who captures an innocence similar to a young Briony from “Atonement” and is probably the best performer on screen, feels awkwardly placed as a distressing force in the trio’s mission in saving the world. Hinting at an almost weird sexual tension between Athena and older Frank is not something that will sit well with many viewers. An extended scene of Cassidy and Clooney gazing into each other’s eyes, where the two feel like they’re about to kiss is the creepiest moment of the decade.
Rest assured, there are some super cool cameos littered throughout. Pierce Gagnon, who you’ll remember as the young Cid in “Looper,” is fine to relish as Casey’s younger brother but all I wanted him to do is pick someone up telepathically and rip them to shreds. Would have made for a much better movie. In a single scene, Keegan-Michael Key (from Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele”) and the industry’s underutilized Kathryn Hahn (brilliant in “StepBrothers” and equally heartbreaking in “Revolutionary Road”) gets the film’s biggest laughs. Sprinkle in some of Tim McGraw‘s country auras with Hugh Laurie‘s diabolical and condescending look at humanity and you have one of the weirdest constructed ensembles of the year.
There are some positive takeaways. Though your eyes will be exhausted from the CGI overload, the Visual Effects are impressive enough to keep you engaged into the world of “Tomorrowland,” which by the way, we spend very little time in. I haven’t been involved this little in a world where the title suggests otherwise since “Transformers: Age of Extinction” gave us just ten minutes of dinobots. The palette of the film is engineered smoothly thanks to cinematographer Claudio Miranda, Oscar-winner for “Life of Pi.”
The thematic and narrative elements of “Tomorrowland” are remarkably unimpressive. You get a long-winded story that ends up simply saying, “don’t suck and everything will be okay.” I could have gotten that from a classic episode of “Captain Planet” at this point. Not from a bloated, often times boring look at science, country-style. It’s the first official dud of the summer.
“Tomorrowland” opens in theaters on Friday, May 22 and is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.