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INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review)

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance
of things, but their inner significance." ~ Aristotle

Cinema Signal: A masterpiece of invention in animation. MOBILE version |
. "Big Hero 6"

A charming character can lift up a film. When the time, the issue and the format is right, a character with that attribute can grab your attention and give a picture an emotional and commercial knockout punch.

Not every screenwriter has the sensibility to bring this appeal to your human responses. But the man who adapted "Big Hero 6" from the Marvel Comic of the same name -- screenwriter Jordan Roberts -- is way beyond most in putting humanistic appeal on the frontline of his narratives as he did in his 2005 "March of the Penguins."

But, "Big Hero 6" is more than charm. It's a comedy action adventure about a robot with an amorphous, soft and seemingly non-mechanical exterior who is programmed to care for his human with an eager nature to please. With Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams, the Walt Disney Animation Studios' result is a computer animated superhero feature that affects the heart and is bound for the history books.

In the future-world of San Fransokyo a prodigious young robotic expert named Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) is the bad boy of local robot fights. After many tries, Hiro's big brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), who is an even greater genius and whom he looks up to in every way, finally achieves the robot design that will win him the prize he's working for. He names it Baymax (superb character-determining voicing by scott Adsit, "St. Vincent"). Baymax is a healthcare robot.

When Tadashi brings Hiro to the robotics lab at the San Fransokyo Insitute of Technology where he works, he introduces his young brother to all his friends, and to a world in which Hiro can realize his full potential.

Hiro immediately goes to work on a new project that turns out to be Microbots, a robot that can reproduce itself on a massive scale that is controlled telepahthically. Everyone is blown away (as well as we should be with the concept), including Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell), the head of the robotics program.

The dark side sets in when he meets Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk), the owner of a large robotics company, who recognizes a money-making product when he sees one. Hiro isn't selling. And, as though it was a consequence of the rejection, tragedy strikes! A fire breaks out, seeming to have trapped the professor, and causing Tadashi to attempt a rescue and losing his life in the flames.

Hiro isolates himself in his room, in great pain as he deals with unexpected grief. For two weeks he will speak to no one. Finally, going through Tadashi's things, Hiro gets to Baymax with the thought of decommissioning his brother's project. But he accidentally activates him and a partnership is born that will take Hiro into a whole new phase of his life.

The pair, as superheros, will challenge the evil of a master villain who has stolen Hiro's microbot design and has manufactured an super-army of them as his weapon of world domination.

The extent of destruction allowed to be seen within a Disney animation feature is limited (as in, not shown) but our two heros take a full beating as the action and dangers rise.

The screenplay is alive with situations to reveal Baymax's little known powers even as he loses juice and can barely be brought home to his recharge station. Before allowing himself to be shut down he only wants to know one thing: "Were you satisfied with my care?"

Indeed, Baymax has helped Hiro deal with his grief.

Which is only one of the story inventions that make this a modern wonder of originality. It makes for a never-a-dull-moment action adventure with charm to burn and should be studied in screenwriting courses for how vital inventiveness is to retaining a grip on your audience from start to finish. Not a word, or a moment on screen, is wasted.

Having said that, the fight against the villain is relatively standard fare for action adventure (Batman, Superman, Spriderman, etc.) and will seem overdone to the adults in the room. But the situations for these particular heros maintain a freshness given Baymax's increasingly appealing twists to expectations.

Out of all the darkness and evil of a mystery that imperils the good guys (think laser cutters), Baymax is arresting, throw-your-arms-around sweet and a new concept in fictional robots. The cartoon that goes beyond clever is a masterpiece of originality and one of the year's best surprises.

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                                                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  

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