There’s a frantic, woo-woo, ding-dong, look-HERE-no-look-THERE! attention-shattering disorder to Meet the Robinsons, a new animated family comedy from Disney’s wobbly CG factory. The head-banging effect suggests a new category of filmmaking endeavor not previously analyzed in serious cinema journals: blind-men-and-elephant art. That’s what happens when seven — seven! — screenwriters grope and stumble their way around an unmanageable story set simultaneously in the past, present, and a Jimmy Neutron future, starring a science-minded orphan kid who travels in a time machine. And in that future, he meets a family as squarely Walton-ish, in their lesson-dispensing way, as they are feverishly wacky.
In jerry-rigging a contraption from recycled parts — The Incredibles, Robots, Star Wars, maybe even old animated Alka-Seltzer commercials — the production team (helmed by Stephen Anderson, making his overmatched feature debut) doesn’t know when to take a breath. So the movie weighs in on child abandonment, adoption, dangerous joyriding, failure as a mark of creativity, childhood embarrassment as a source of a vengeful adulthood, and frogs as good nightclub singers. There’s also an irritating villain called Bowler Hat Guy. Under such circumstances, who knows whether the project is meant to be earnest, ironic, post-ironic, made for adults, made for kids, made to teach lessons, or made to be watched in an altered state? All or none…jeez, this thing is one bumpy ride.