Disney's "Big Hero 6" is a mash-up in more ways than one. It's part superhero movie, based on an obscure Marvel comic, and part family-friendly animated tale. The visuals combine old-school style and sleek anime influences while the setting is a portmanteau metropolis appropriately named Sanfransokyo.
According to movie critics, some of those juxtapositions are more successful than others, but on the whole "Big Hero 6" is an inventive, entertaining yarn that benefits from the considerable charms of an inflatable robot named Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit).
The Times' Betsy Sharkey describes the character as a "towering, huggable, robotic bag of air and brains [who] steals the show and probably seals a franchise. He also "represents another interesting evolution in the kind of animation we can expect from Disney."
Sharkey says that directors Don Hall and Chris Williams "create a smart, forward-thinking and yet emotionally old-fashioned world" in a film that's "a little edgier, its humor a little grittier and its sensibility very 21st century, setting it on a different path than the studio's classic fairy tale staples." Amid all that, Baymax's "sweet puffery keeps 'Big Hero 6' afloat as it plows into the relatively typical terrain of superhero-villain battles fought with the fate of the world hanging by a thread."
USA Today's Claudia Puig agrees that Baymax is an "irresistible blobby hero" and adds, "It's hard not to love the movie he stars in, too. With its appealing array of nerdy characters, inventive architecture and striking cross-cultural production design, 'Hero' is a vibrant romp."
The movie "strikes just the right notes for a kid-friendly superhero adventure," Puig says, and Sanfransokyo's "beautifully rendered blend of cultures is nothing short of enchanting, recalling the work of Japanese master animator Hayao Miyazaki." In the minus column, "Some action scenes grow excessive," and there's "an ill-considered plot twist."
In another positive review, the Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan writes, "Though loosely based on an obscure, out-of-print series of comics … 'Big Hero 6' is fresh and inventive enough in every important way — visuals, storytelling and, most significantly, in terms of character — to satisfy even the most jaded animation fan."
Even though it's got "a rusty plot straight out of 'Scooby-Doo,'" he continues, the film "chugs along like a well-oiled machine, thanks mainly to the charm and character — yes, character — of Baymax."
The New York Times' Manohla Dargis doesn't quite agree: She concedes that "Big Hero 6" delivers a "bright, visually sumptuous 3-D computer-animated feature that gives you a bit of an emotional workout." And yet, "It's too bad that in making its first movie based on a Marvel comic Disney didn't decide to take a real leap into the future, say, by making Hiro [the main character] a girl or ditching some of the cliches, like the blowout finale, that make so many superhero movies feel so drearily similar."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle calls "Big Hero 6" an "intelligent and artful creation" as well as "a funny movie, and not in that forced way of older animated films, with a few jokes aimed over the head of the kiddies just to make the ordeal tolerable for adults. The humor here works for all ages." That said, the film "begins to drag after about an hour, and though it's too witty and well made to become tiresome, nobody who sees it will wish it were longer. A 10-minute trim — with a scissors, not a meat ax — would take this movie up a level."
The Associated Press' Jake Coyle also says the movie starts strongly — but then it gets lost into action territory. He writes, "So buoyant is the first half of 'Big Hero 6' and so colorful is its bright, Japanese anime-inspired palette, that the film's slide into familiar comic book-movie ruts comes as a disappointment. Could it not have stayed in its rich robotics world as a high-tech high-school tale? Are such Earth-bound stories no longer possible for big-studio animation? Can't a kid grow up without flying up?"
The movie, Coyle says "is a fine blend of sweetness and spectacle, East and West. The meeting of Disney and Marvel sensibilities, though, is a more mixed union."