The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Tomorrowland is like something a science fiction-obsessed 12-year-old would come up with following a trip to Disneyland. And I mean that in the best possible sense. The film, directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), has an old-fashioned gee-whiz spirit seldom found in big-budget summer movies. Sure, there are some gaping plot holes, and the major theme is simplified to ring a bell with younger viewers, but that doesn't dampen the fun in the least.

Britt Robertson (The Longest Ride) plays Casey Newton, a science-loving teen who gets in a spot of trouble with the law. After being released from jail, she discovers a strange pin nestled in with her belongings. Casey touches it and immediately gets a glimpse of Tomorrowland, a fantastic far-away place filled with technological innovations and a hopeful vision of the future. Not long afterward, she encounters Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a strange little girl who claims to be able to explain the pin's magic and meaning. Athena guides Casey to the home of former boy inventor Frank Walker (George Clooney), who was kicked out of Tomorrowland as a child. He now monitors a grave situation regarding the survival of the planet. The intersection of these three individuals results in a return to Tomorrowland, as well as a joint effort to save the world as we know it.

In some respects, Tomorrowland is reminiscent of another Disney movie, 1991's The Rocketeer, in that it has a retro-futuristic vibe that won't be for every taste, but which provides enormous entertainment for those who can get into it. The movie looks and feels different from most other recent fantasies because it revolves around a vision of the future as created decades in the past. It's the kind of picture where one character flies around in a jet pack and the Eiffel Tower is actually a launching pad for a spaceship. There are plenty of imaginative ideas that somehow harken back to a more innocent time. Tomorrowland captures a childlike sense of wonder about all the possibilities out there that remain unexplored. CGI work here is excellent, creating wild gizmos and a fantastical landscape that look grounded in some semblance of reality rather than excessively artificial.

Bird co-wrote the screenplay with Damon Lindelof, and they've crafted a movie with a message designed to inspire kids. While admittedly ignoring some of the more complicated aspects of the issue, Tomorrowland rings a bell for taking care of our planet, not just in an ecological sense, but in scientific, moral, and social senses, too. The adults in the story - Walker and the “governor” of Tomorrowland, Nix (Hugh Laurie) – are jaded, having already accepted that the world is going to end. Casey represents every generation still to be born. Because she's young and hasn't lost her optimism, she is the one who can potentially make things better. They can no longer see a way out because they've stopped looking; she can, because she's only just starting to look. Tomorrowland encourages children to dream, to think about what they want the world to be, then go out and make it happen. The message is inspiring.

For adults, there's also a lot of witty humor. In one terrific sequence, Casey visits a sci-fi memorabilia shop run by a kooky, not-what-they-seem husband and wife team, played by Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn. Scan the background for some identifiable movie characters and awesome in-jokes. Plus, there are several really clever action scenes, the best of which involves a chase through Walker's seemingly quaint little house, which is actually booby-trapped with his many inventions. While it may seem to have a lot on its plate, Tomorrowland deftly mixes all these various elements into a fast-moving, consistently pleasing whole.

One could easily nitpick a few slightly confusing turns of events in the third act, or the hint of naivety that hovers over the story. What's the point in nitpicking, though? Tomorrowland is the kind of upbeat entertainment that never goes out of style. With an excellent cast, cool visuals, funny jokes, and a positive message, it makes for a perfectly enjoyable two hours.

( 1/2 out of four)

Tomorrowland is rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language. The running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes.

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