Film reviews: Big Hero 6 | Son Of A Gun

Nowadays one almost takes certain aspects of Disney animations for granted. There will be spectacle, there will be poignancy, there will be a character who shapes up as a great soft toy. Big Hero 6 ticks all these boxes.

Big Hero 6. Picture: Contributed
Big Hero 6. Picture: Contributed

Big Hero 6 (PG)

Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Running time: 102 minutes

Star rating: * * * *

It is charming, child-friendly and certainly the best option for parents trying to find 90 minutes peace this January.

Yet when one of the film’s young iGeniuses gasps over a 3D printer, it throws up the unkind thought that Big Hero 6 also feels as if it is a precisely calculated form of machine tooled duplication, rather than an inspired invention. Certainly its touchstones seem awfully familiar if you have seen The Iron Giant, Terminator 2, The Incredibles, or even the detective work of Scooby-Doo.

The most unexpected element is 6’s background. The city of San Franciskoyo is a futuristic town that blends Japanese pagodas with American street trams, and in its back streets 14-year-old Hiro (Ryan Potter) scams suckers into playing robot wars with a deceptively mild battlebot.

A teen technology whiz, he’s teetering on the edge of a future in reform school, until his equally inventive big brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) intervenes and encourages him to come up with a more helpful invention – Microbots, digital cells that can be telepathically arranged into any shape, like Lego.

Big Hero 6 is big on action set pieces, but not so interested in plot exposition. Early on Hiro reminds his brother that they are orphans with the expedient clunker, “you know our parents died when I was 3?” Within the first half hour, Tadashi is gone too, perishing off-screen in a fire in his hi-tech lab.

However, he leaves behind his latest project, Baymax, a robot nurse who activates to offer assistance when it hears the word “ow” – although it’s puzzling that Tadashi has made Baymax inflate into the proportions of the Michelin Man or a sumo wrestler. After watching it get stuck in a tight space for the umpteenth time, even the most inattentive child may wonder if this is really a helpful shape for a care worker.

No matter: Baymax is destined to become not only Hiro’s best friend, but part of a team he assembles to investigate his brother’s death.

Baymax gets a red metal costume that seems to have been constructed from Iron Man’s cast-offs and joins a unit that comprises Hiro and the misfits from his brother’s nerd lab, each parcelled out with one defining characteristic – cheerful Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), dreadlocked Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr), tough girl Go (Jamie Chung) and a Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo hippy called Fred (TJ Miller).

Big Hero 6 has a decent heart and an earnest aim to tackle issues of loss and death. Some of this is touching and sweet, although if you are a parent some of it is a little irritating – not least the emphasis on Hiro’s bond with Baymax the talking marshmallow when all through the film he has a guardian called Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph), who runs a coffee business but still finds time to care for him, cook him special dinners and tiptoe to his room to make sure he’s alright. Maybe in the sequel Aunt Cass gets a Credit Where Its Due machine.

Twitter @SiobhanSynnot

On general release from Friday

Kingsman: The Secret Service (15)

Star rating: * * * *

There’s much to relish in Matthew Vaughn’s cartoonish spy flick, including Sofia Boutella as a henchwoman who carves up all-comers with razorblade runner prosthetics like a cross between Rosa Klebb and a Sabatier set, Michael Caine back in a pair of Harry Palmer’s specs – and above all Colin Firth embarking on a new career as the Henry Higgins of snappy slaughter.

Firth goes forth as Harry Hart, leading light in a league of gentlemen crime fighters steeped in old school ties and privilege. Usually the Kingsmen draw recruits from the posh and privileged, but Hart decides that Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a raw petty criminal from a clichéd council estate, has the potential to graduate from hoodie to hero, and mentors him through a do or die selection programme. Most of the tests that Eggsy undergoes – skydiving, slow drowning – seem to emphasise the “die” part, but the upside is the company uniforms, a droolsome bespoke kit of bulletproof suits, polished Oxfords and Google Glass-style specs.

Firth is the lynchpin of Kingsman. It’s a pleasure to watch him take down a pub full of heavies, but Firth also brings a suave wit to his line readings and a moral core to the over-caffeinated violence. I suppose 007 and the Avengers didn’t worry too much about their body count either but, as Kingsman is keen to point out, times have changed since then.

Son Of A Gun (15)

Star rating: * * *

Australian heist film in which a teenager JR (Brenton Thwaites) is jailed for a petty crime and is saved from being beaten up and worse when he’s given protection by the prison’s most notorious criminal (a bulked up, bearded Ewan McGregor swearing away in a roughed up version of his Crieff accent). The result is half Starred Up, half heist film, and writer-director Julius Avery sometimes struggles to balance these two genres, while poor JR is a pretty dull hero. Still, there are some exciting set pieces and McGregor is unusually but effectively cast as a hardboiled lifer.

On general release from Friday

Trash (15)

Star rating: * *

Director Stephen Daldry and writer Richard Curtis collaborate on a story of teenage boys from the favelas who find a wallet that contains some incriminating evidence against a local politician. Its earnest heart is in the right place, but really this seems aimed at audiences who saw Fernando Meirelles’ slum drama City Of God and wished it was more cheery.

On general release from Friday

Inherent Vice (15)

Star rating: * *

Paul Thomas Anderson takes on Thomas Pynchon’s supposedly unfilmable stoner novel about a private eye (Joaquin Phoenix) searching for an ex-girlfriend, who encounters a series of oddballs (Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro). Too unpredictable to be dull, but don’t mistake the film’s incomprehensible plotting for complexity; this is an exercise in pot smoke and mirrors.

On general release from Friday

Mortdecai (12A)

Star rating: *

Art dealer Charles Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is hired to track down a lost Goya painting which may lead to hidden Nazi gold. Depp does his best Terry-Thomas impression in David Koepp’s frantic, formless comedy but, like Depp’s retro moustache, we’re stuck with an elaborate but unlovable piece of shtick. With Gwyneth Paltrow (above with Depp), Ewan McGregor and Paul Bettany.

On general release