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“Big Hero Six”: A Superhero Movie That Celebrates Brains Over Brawn

Disney-Pictures

David Ives - published on 11/11/14

Disney delivers in a movie that's, well, adorable.

If your inner cynic got a good look at Baymax, the big inflatable robot from Disney’s newest animated feature “Big Hero 6,” and thought to itself, “You know, this big marshmallow thing is just custom designed to elicit the same kind of response those cute cat videos on YouTube do,” well… your inner cynic would be absolutely right. That adorableness is actually a crucial part of Baymax’s character.

Created by college age whiz kid Tadashi Hamada to be the ultimate healthcare companion, everything about Baymax, from his appearance to his voice, is carefully constructed to inspire calmness and trust as he administers to your medical needs. And not just your physical needs either, though he is fully equipped to handle injuries. Baymax is programmed to help with a person’s mental health as well, ready to dispense psychological analysis, or just a hug if that’s all that is needed. He may be big and awkward, but first and foremost, Baymax is a healer.

At least, that’s what Baymax is meant to be until Tadashi’s younger brother, the thirteen-year old prodigy Hiro, gets ahold of him. We first meet the aimless Hiro as he wastes his time participating in illegal back alley miniature robot fights. Having already graduated high school, the boy has no interest in enrolling in college, because he assumes no professor has anything to teach him. That all changes, however, when Tadashi tricks Hiro into stopping by the “nerd school” the older brother attends.

This is where Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends, and his own future teammates, as they work on their various projects. There’s the speed-obsessed Go Go Tomago, who is trying to master electromagnetic transportation, the neurotic Wasabi, who is developing laser slicing technology, the always optimistic Honey Lemon, who is pushing the boundaries of chemical reactions, and the science groupie Fred, who functions as both the school’s mascot and the chief bestower of oddball nicknames. The chief draw for Hiro, though, is the school’s teacher, Prof. Robert Callaghan, whose work in robotics is Hiro’s primary inspiration.

It’s interesting to note that, with a few exceptions, almost every major character in the movie is a genius. And those who aren’t, such as Fred, Aunt Cass, and Alistair Krei, the entrepreneur who hopes to profit from the school’s inventions, all admire and encourage intellectual pursuits. Maybe directors Chris Williams and Don Hall saw the old Val Kilmer movie “Real Genius” as kids and became enraptured with it, or perhaps they just wanted to make a kids version of “Big Bang Theory.” Whatever the reason, the movie is so egghead-centric that if it wasn’t for the superhero action which starts up halfway through the film, I’d worry that it might alienate every kid who never made the honor roll.

Speaking of that action, things really get rolling after someone blows up the school with Tadashi and Callaghan still inside, and makes off with the miniature pellet sized robots (not magic nanobots, mind you, just regular old robots) that Hiro had created for his audition to gain enrollment. Crushed by the deaths of his brother and his mentor, Hiro begins to revert back to his aimless ways.

And then he discovers that Baymax is still around and functioning. This is where the movie starts to get both really fun and occasionally poignant. It’s fun because, true to his programming, Baymax is downright adorable. Not overly cute or cloying, just adorable. Judging from the laughs garnered as Hiro learns to interact with his new caretaker, the movie could probably have skipped all of the action and just followed the two new pals around as they got to know each other. But the action scenes are a hoot as well, mostly due to Baymax’s determination to keep Hiro in a state of mental relaxation even as the movie’s kabuki-masked villain throws one robotic monstrosity after another at the pair.

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