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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Tomorrowland 2015 * * Stars

TomorrowlandDirector: Brad Bird
Year: 2015
Rated PG
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie

In the late 1990's or early 2000's, I read that George Clooney seemed bent on being pickier via his upcoming projects (after Batman & Robin, who could blame him). He has in fact, stayed true to this notion for most of the way. However, with The Monuments Men and another misguided mishap in 2015's Tomorrowland (my latest review), the Cloonster isn't being pickier. Now he's just "picking".

Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and featuring plenty of green-screen overload, "Tomorrow" is a sci-fi threadbare that seems too complex for its own good. It's being promoted as a kid's movie mind you, a Disney movie. But there's too many thoughts and ideas coiled up here to facilitate even 130 minutes of running time. The pace for what its worth, is dictated on characters who bicker, fight, and talk rapidly. This is for all intensive purposes, to thrust the story along. What a travesty. Honestly, if I was a budding ten year-old, I'd probably exit the theater halfway through the second, combative act. Could it be that my inner brat is trying to get out and break free? Oh you know it.

With injecting humor that is uncomfortably tongue-in-cheek (more like tongues bitten right off), enough cartoonish, PG-rated violence that is manageable, and a showcase of steely-eyed contraptions that would make Inspector Gadget jealous, Tomorrowland has a structure that is predicated on two flashbacks (one long and one short). The proceedings chronicle young Casey Newton (Britt Robertson). She's the daughter of a NASA engineer, a curious science nut, and after finding a pin that transports her to a futuristic borough (just think of 'Tomorrowland' in the same vein as The Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz), well she's tapped to save the world. In order to succeed, she aids in the help of an inventor who's already taken in the sumptuous scenery (Frank Walker played by George Clooney) and a robot that doesn't age over five decades (Athena played by Raffey Cassidy who gives the film's strongest performance). As the three renegades come together, the only obstacle standing in their way is another inventor who eventually becomes governor of 'Tomorrowland' (David Nix played by Hugh Laurie). He's content with our world frolicking in natural disasters, calamities, and civil disorder. This dude can see into the future and it don't look too bright.

Now in terms of the acting, the leads are standardized in bringing their characters to life. It's the smaller roles and bit parts that come off as incredibly laughable. Anyway, Britt Robertson plays Casey Newton with a ton of overacting and reacting. After the final credits rolled, I realized that she's the closest thing to a female Shia Labeouf. Hollywood will probably embrace this and give said starlet more top billing. Does that mean I'm okay with it? Not really. But it doesn't matter because I don't have any say in the workings of Tinseltown. Then we have of course, George Clooney. He channels Frank Walker with a side of grumpy, a side of gruff and grizzled, and plenty of obligatory, Clooney head tilts. He looks bored but at least he looks bored and restless at the same time. That's a step up. Finally, we have Hugh Laurie playing the villainous David Nix. Listen, I think Laurie is a heck of an actor. What I don't get is why he would agree to spout such farcical soliloquies contained in "Tomorrow's" script. His speeches about the so-called "end of the world" and such feel more like acts of grandstanding than ploys to move an audience. And don't you just wish he'd don an American accent this time instead of using his normal, British one (that's just a personal preference for me)?

Bad lectures and Shia Labeouf cloning aside, "Tomorrow" is the type of ragtag conundrum that harbors a big budget ($190 million). It's strained Spielbergian and I predict that it might not find its audience after opening weekend. I mean yeah it is somewhat visionary but its vision is also kind of skewed. Granted, this could almost be 2015's version of Dune or Wild Wild West (I have opted to call Clooney's latest, the "Tinkertoy" movie). And I might as well say this: Two instances could have occurred during production. The first one could of involved an inebriated David Lynch wandering on set and whispering something into director Brad Bird's ear. The second one could have revolved around Bird emailing the Wachowski siblings for secretive consultation. You know I'm kidding right. Or am I?

All in all, Tomorrowland may have tip-top intentions and stilted aspirations. But it's mauled over with a preachy shtick and a little bit of manhandled cynicism. In one fell swoop, it settles in the "land" of the grandiloquent. The result: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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