Tomorrowland is too much today and not enough tomorrow.
This futuristic flick is the second live feature directed by animation legend Brad Bird. He is — for those that don’t know — best known for Oscars and all kinds of awards for the now animated classics Ratatouille, The Incredibles and The Iron Giant.
A friend — before the critic’s screening — told me Bird never disappoints. Not so. His first was the stunt-heavy but so-so Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland is the second.
George Clooney and The Longest Ride’s Britt Robertson star in this pie-in-the-sky tale of a utopian city existing in another dimension where the world’s best and brightest dreamers live, prosper and create. It begins at the 1960 World’s Fair in New York when Clooney’s character, a very young Frank Walker, invents a jet pack that doesn’t work. Athena — a young girl working an invention counter at the fair — gives him a pin that admits him to Tomorrowland.
Flash forward to present day. Robertson is Casey. Her dad — played by country singer Tim McGraw — is going to be laid off after a rocket ship platform is dismantled. She keeps sabotaging the project so he can keep his job. Casey is brilliant and bold. Athena notices and slips her a pin similar to the one Walker got from her in 1960. That leads Casey to the now-reclusive adult Walker and a trip to Tomorrowland to solve a world-ending puzzle discovered by Walker when he lived there.
Even when being a curmudgeon, Clooney is always Clooney. He’s good but offers nothing new. TV’s House doctor Hugh Laurie has a small part as the film’s villain, and he’s also so-so. All electricity from Tomorrowland is courtesy of the quite charismatic Robertson. She’s terrific, as is newcomer Raffey Cassidy, who plays Athena.
More of them and their story and less of Clooney might have helped.
So would a sense of humor. Bird — who co-wrote with World War Z’s co-writer Damon Lindelof — has lost his sense of fun. We laughed at and loved his two Pixar flicks and were wowed by the creativity of The Iron Giant. Tomorrowland is a marvelous idea desperate for a bit of slapstick and some tongue-in-cheek humor. Clooney has great comedy timing, and so does Laurie, but neither, nor their two co-stars, are given the opportunity to do anything but play it straight.
Admittedly, Tomorrowland is a beautifully done film. But Bird and his creative crew don’t give you much that is original. The city Tomorrowland looks like what Walt Disney would have dreamed up if he’d done The Wizard of Oz. Bird’s robots and futuristic frills are also carbon copies of what’s been done before.
By the time Bird drags you — 2 hours and 10 minutes later — to the film’s important and right-on message about what to do about a dangerous future, you’re yawning and are thinking you’ll think more about Tomorrowland tomorrow.
And then you won’t.