This isn't inherently a bad thing, but I feel it should be said: Big Hero 6 is the weakest Disney animated film since 2010's Tangled. Disney's recent output has been surprisingly great. 2011's Winnie the Pooh, 2012's Wreck-It Ralph, and last year's absurdly popular Frozen have been marvelous and enchanting additions to the Disney canon. And while Big Hero 6 is a solid enough entry for Walt's expansive library of films, it's more generic and predictable than we've come to expect from Disney the last few years. This isn't a fall, so much as a small descent.
Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, Big Hero 6 is about a boy genius named Hiro Hamada who, because of a series of plot details that are best experienced in film, assembles a team of scientists to apprehend a dangerous villain.
Big Hero 6 is what you would expect if you had only seen the trailers, and had been unaware of Disney's involvement. The characters are bouncy and loud, the animation is gorgeous, and the whole family can watch it and have a good time. But because Disney made this film, expectations are understandably higher. The film is surprisingly simplistic, and clearly aiming for a younger audience than Wreck-It Ralph or even Frozen.
The biggest problem with Big Hero 6 is its basic nature. Outside of two areas (which I'll discuss in a moment), Big Hero 6 doesn't excel, but rather, performs solidly. It's a workmanlike production. Traditional three-act structure, basic character arcs, easy-to-follow storyline, etc. There aren't any surprises.
Carryover features from Marvel includes a disappointing "death cheat," and a Stan Lee cameo that makes for an initially amusing sight gag, but is later translated into an odd after-credits-scene.
There are two things that Big Hero 6 accomplishes especially well. The first is the animation, which is predictably beautiful. Every time I watch a new animated film, I think "this is it! We've reached the high point! It can't look any better than this!" And somehow, I'm always proved wrong. Big Hero 6 is no exception. The opening shot of San Fransokyo (the primary location of the film) is breathtaking, and there are two flight sequences in this film that are among the best I've seen in any film.
The other especially well-accomplished part of this film is the supporting character Baymax. Baymax is a marshmallow-like robot that is in charge of taking care of Hiro. He's funny, but never overbearing; the ultimate goal for a supporting character. Scott Adsit's delivery of Baymax's dialogue is brilliant. And while we're talking about voices, Ryan Potter, TJ Miller, and Maya Rudolph all lend notable performances. Alan Tudyk also contributes in his third Disney film in a row (following King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph and the Duke of Weselton in Frozen), though unfortunately, it's for a fairly boring character.
Henry Jackman's score is solid, but not what you might be expecting. Considering Big Hero 6's roots in Asian culture, one would've expected a score suited to that. Traditional Asian anime tends to feature fairly flamboyant music, and that isn't present here. Instead, we get left-overs from Jackman's score from Wreck-It Ralph. It's an entertaining score, but it's not what one might have hoped for.
Call it what you like; "Wreck-It Ralph Lite," "The Incredibles Plush," "Lilo & Stitch with less Elvis," etc. Big Hero 6 has no shortage of problems. It's predictable, the supporting crew is fairly underdeveloped, and the villain is too (even though he looks really cool). The last 20 or so minutes drag a little bit in an unremarkable showdown between the Big Hero 6 crew, and the nasty villain. And it's occasionally derivative qualities tend to hurt the overall picture. Despite all of this, Big Hero 6 is solidly entertaining. There are enough big laughs and sincerity running throughout to make this worth a look. But if you're beyond the double-digit age range, you might come out of the movie saying little more than, "well that was cute."
Note: Big Hero 6 is preceded by a short film that's actually significantly more charming than the film itself. Titled, Feast, the short film is about a dog and his owner, and their story as interpreted through food. It boasts an animation style very similar to that of 2012's Paperman (but in color), and it's both funny and poignant. It's the best of Disney's theatrical short films, and could go head-to-head with almost any of Pixar's short films as well. Get to the theater in time so you don't miss it!