Walt Disney Feature Animation's second computer-animated outing is a hyperactive mix of retro sci-fi, physical comedy and family drama. As zippy and colourful as it is, though, Meet The Robinsons is not as entertaining or endearing as the division's CG feature debut Chicken Little. So it will need to make the most of its pre-Easter holiday opening and relatively wide 3D release to have a chance of matching Chicken's $300m-plus worldwide box office total.
Buena Vista openedthe film wide in North America and in several major international territories this weekend, with most other markets following next weekend (remaining territories get the film in late summer or early autumn). More than 600 US screens will offer the film in the Disney Digital 3-D format first used (on a smaller scale) on Chicken Little.
Younger kids on their Easter school holiday should give the picture a good start at the box office; in the US, Robinsons dealt with competition from last weekend's surprisingly successful animated opener TMNT, opening second behind Blades Of Glory.
As with most CG animation, international prospects look particularly strong, though having American source material and human rather than animal characters might cut the take a little.
Seven writers - including the film's first-time feature director Stephen Anderson (whose previous credits include story supervisor on Brother Bear) - adapted William Joyce's slim illustrated book (aimed at four to eight-year-olds) A Day With Wilbur Robinson.
In the movie version, hero Lewis is a 12-year-old orphan whose passion for inventing weird and usually malfunctioning machines gets in the way of his search for adoptive parents. An apparently chance meeting with a time-traveling pre-teen gets Lewis whisked off into the future, where he meets the eccentric members of the Robinson family.
The story's underlying themes concern the search for family and the value of learning from failure. But once those themes are laid out, the film doesn't get emotional again until its plot twist-driven closing scenes. The bulk of the running time is taken up with the Robinsons and their futuristic world.
The extended family includes a mother who conducts a frog big band, a grandpa who wears his clothes backwards, a superhero pizza deliveryman uncle, a purple octopus butler, and a suave robot.
The family's world is full of instant skyscrapers, flying cars and the odd time-transplanted dinosaur, and in bringing it to life the film recalls everything from The Addams Family to Star Wars to The Jetsons (as well as Viacom's 2001 computer animated feature Jimmy Neutron).
While the future world segment is visually impressive - if over frenetic - the film is weak in other departments. The comedy is rarely very sharp and the main characters are mostly bland. The one exception is the story's apparent villain, a silent movie-style moustache twirler voiced by director Anderson and stylishly animated.
Angela Bassett and Tom Selleck get top billing in the voice cast but both their parts are fairly small. More noticeable voice work comes from comic Harland Williams (as the family robot) and former TV Batman Adam West (as the pizza deliveryman uncle).
An impressive line-up of song contributors (which might help draw some older children and younger parents) includes Rufus Wainwright, Rob Thomas, Jamie Cullum and They Might Be Giants. One of Wainwright's numbers plays out in full accompanying an early montage sequence but most of the other soundtrack songs are used fleetingly behind the action.
Walt Disney Feature Animation
Walt Disney Pictures
Buena Vista International
Main cast (voices)