Baymax is a loveable, huggable inflatable robot — who doesn’t want one of those? — and he belongs in a movie more loveable and huggable than “Big Hero 6.”
A computer-animated mash-up of Japanese and American cultures (it takes place in San Fransokyo, a dream rendering of San Francisco and Tokyo), “Big Hero 6” is a friendship tale and an action flick that winds up lost in translation.
The story centers on Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter), a kid genius, and his relationship with Baymax (Scott Adsit), a puffy bag of air who resembles an untoned version of the Michelin Man.
Baymax — every time a character says his name, it sounds for the world like “Betamax” — is soft, sweet and gentle, his sympathetic eyes and mouth formed by what looks like the outline of a barbell. He’s a robot programmed to provide health care — an interactive Minute Clinic — and Hiro rewires him to become his superhero pal.
The world already has plenty of superheroes, of course, and “Big Hero 6,” which is based on a Marvel Comic, because most things these days are based on a Marvel Comic, falters as a superhero movie. The relationship between Baymax and Hiro provides enough to play with that “Big Hero 6” doesn’t need to turn into a loud, cluttered action film, but that’s where the story goes.
Hiro teams up with a group of brainiac students, who use their amateur inventor skills to become superheroes themselves, to take on an evil genius in a Kabuki mask who is threatening, naturally, to take over the world.
In our pro-nerd, tech-heavy, superhero-obsessed culture, “Big Hero 6” hits on all manner of popular themes. It favors brains over muscles and celebrates the power of friendship — good messages, all.
But the big heroes who make up the “6” feel like bit players instead of full-fledged characters. Only the slacker-type Fred (voiced by T.J. Miller) stands out; the others aren’t memorable enough to fill their own action figure molds. They’re like the Avengers’ not-very-interesting nieces and nephews.
Directors Don Hall (co-director of 2011’s “Winnie the Pooh”) and Chris Williams (co-director of “Bolt”) start strong, but “Big Hero 6’s” inconsistent script builds to an overly busy, standard action movie climax that detracts from the simple story about a boy and his cuddly robot pal.
“Big Hero 6” does make strides in terms of diversity and setting, and it’s refreshing to see a movie for kids that acknowledges a world bigger than America. It may have more to do with worldwide box office potential than education, but it’s a start.
Kids will leave the theater wanting their own Baymax, and who can blame them? It’s the rest of the “Heroes” that don’t measure up; the robot full of air is the most real thing in the movie.
‘Big Hero 6’
Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements
Running time: 105 minutes