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TOMORROWLAND is one big Disney commercial and I’m not okay with that…

Posted on May 29th, 2015
Posted on May 29th, 2015

by Coop Cooper

As a kid growing up in the 80’s, I remember very clearly some of the move/TV content created for my viewing pleasure was designed to encourage me to buy toys. “He-Man”, “Transformers”, “G.I. Joe”, even the “Star Wars” films had a hand in me writing up my Christmas list for Santa Claus. I can forgive “Star Wars” since it invented the whole concept and made getting new toys exciting, but most of these shows were unapologetic cash grabs. “Tomorrowland” feels like a throwback to that shady old practice.

At the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, a young boy named Frank Walker impresses the right person at a young inventor’s contest with his homemade jet pack. He receives an invitation to a city in an alternate dimension where the world’s brightest inventors have assembled to create a utopia that is centuries ahead of Earth in its technology. These creators intended for this technology to be revealed to the population on Earth to bring humanity into a new golden age of enlightenment, but something went terribly wrong. Flash forward to present day, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), an idealistic young troublemaker finds an artifact that gives her holographic visions of 1964 Tomorrowland. In order to discover the source of these visions, she runs afoul of evil androids intent on protecting the secret and one good robot girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who leads her to the older Frank Walker (George Clooney) who was exiled from Tomorrowland. With bad robots in pursuit, they return to Tomorrowland to discover what went wrong with the utopia and find a way to save it and the world.

It becomes obvious while watching this movie that it is one big advertisement for Disney and their merchandise. For example, an R2-D2 prop at a collectibles store is used as a melee weapon, Frank says “Zippity Do-Dah” instead of “Whoop de-do” and the portal that takes Frank to Tomorrowland is located underneath the “It’s a Small World” Disneyland ride. Kids may delight at the inexhaustible Disney references but parents will roll their eyes at the blatant marketing assault. Heck, the whole premise of the movie is based on an entire section of Disneyland/World attractions.

Since the film is heavily geared towards kids, they should probably also have a “Don’t try this at home” disclaimer since every invention presented by Tomorrowland scientists is potentially deadly. Every time a new one was presented on screen, all I could think of was how unsafe it looked, everything from the zero gravity swimming pool to the jet pack that nearly kills young Frank about a dozen times in the first third of the film. Sure, no kid is going to build a working jet pack like this one, but the film does make crashing into objects at high speed look completely painless.

Among its many flaws, this movie is insufferably preachy. It seems to have a “we know what makes a better world than you do” mentality and suggests that youthful enthusiasm trumps aged wisdom on any occasion. While the end is uplifting, it almost feels like a PSA encouraging students to find the right career for them. It’s optimistic and positive but overall I felt like I was watching a manipulative commercial.

The performances weren’t anything special, especially Britt Robertson who has shown her tendencies to overact in the TV series “Under the Dome”. She hoots, hollers, screams and flails throughout the entire film when she isn’t gawking, slack-jawed at the wonders of Tomorrowland. I also couldn’t abide the overrated Hugh Laurie as Tomorrowland’s villain Nix. His acting style comes across just as disingenuous as it did on the TV show “House”. Clooney is the best actor of the bunch but his character is so grumpy, it takes too long to warm up to him.

I appreciated how director Brad Bird went for a nostalgic, kid-centric tone we used to see with movies like “E.T.” and the “Star Wars” Trilogy. It is fun enough to entertain minors but adults might feel its an insult to their intelligence, especially when they realize this film was created solely to push a bunch of Disney products on their kids. Anybody remember that episode of “The Simpsons” where Bart starts watching the cartoon “The Mattel and Mars Bar Quick Energy Chocobot Hour” featuring robots made of Mars chocolate playing with Mattel toys? “Tomorrowland” reminded me of that.

2 out of 5 stars

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