Review: ‘Tomorrowland’ is a heady family film that is quite ambitiously fun

2015-05-29-Tomorrowland-movie-posterBy MARK VIOLA

Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) is one of those directors whose films always pique my interest. So when I first heard that Bird was working on a secretive live-action project for Disney based on a story he developed with Damon Lindelof (“Lost”) and “Entertainment Weekly” writer Jeff Jensen (known for his indepth analyses of heady televisions series like “Lost”), I was quite intrigued.

That secretive project ultimately became “Tomorrowland,” with Bird and Lindelof writing the script and Bird himself directing. And yes, it is very loosely based around the concepts of Disney World’s Tomorrowland. But to dismiss the film because of its ties to the amusement park would be a mistake, because just as “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” paid homage to its ride on the way to creating a unique and entertaining story, “Tomorrowland” has a very original and engaging story of its own. In fact, Bird reportedly declined an offer to direct the next “Star Wars” film so he could shepherd his original project to completion.

“Tomorrowland” is an ambitious film, both for the scope and scale of the production as well as the depth and breadth of its story. Like Bird’s other family films, there are heavy subjects handled in a delicate way but without the hand-holding and punch-pulling we’ve come to expect from other “kids” movies. While I can’t say “Tomorrowland” is a perfect film and will definitely entertain the younger audiences it is ostensibly being targeted to, it packs some weighty issues and messages without feeling preachy or condescending. What I can say is it is a fascinating film, and one that, on several levels, I would compare to last fall’s “Interstellar,” another ambitious project from an imaginative director–Christopher Nolan–that left audiences divided but left me filled with wonder.

Like “Interstellar” before it, “Tomorrowland” is an ambitious project and comes close enough to success for me to say it was well worth watching.

The film is rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language.

(This is a shortened version of the full review available in our printed or e-edition papers.)

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