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"Tomorrowland" Movie Review: Five Stars

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 "Tomorrowland"

Movie Review: Five Stars

By Don Gibble

So it has come to this: A big budget, futuristic, effects-heavy, star-driven, fantasy-oriented, audience-friendly, beautifully made and it is not part of a franchise! But that’s how it is in the summer of 2015 for Tomorrowland, a sparkling work of speculative fiction that could not be more Disney in the old-fashioned sense, but is dominated by its philosophical thrust against social pessimism and disenchantment. Theoretically, the required ingredients for a big summer hit are mostly present and accounted for, but the considerable question remains as to whether the mass audience of the moment is ready to embrace an inventive adventure fantasy than is the current norm.

In his own way, director Brad Bird, who wrote the script with Damon Lindelof from a story they cooked up with Jeff Jensen, has made a counter-present culture work that amplifies and synthesizes impulses that have driven at least some of his previous films.  In “Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles”, he explicitly used his fondness for post-World War II sci-fi and fantasy as a motivating point for his massively entertaining but also thoughtful appreciation of the positive, can-do ethos of the period. The evil came from the forces that would thwart the sky’s-the-limit achievement of the world’s best, brightest and right-minded, and frustration with those who would impede excellence and forward-thinking on all fronts is the sentiment that grumbles and groans beneath the shiny surfaces of Tomorrowland.

The film takes its title from the future-focused section of Disneyland inaugrated in 1955, and is dramatically rooted in the Disney-designed elements at the 1964 New York World’s Fair – including the It’s A Small World ride, which promoted images of a pristine future marked by soaring buildings, sweeping highways, immaculate mass transit and perfectly functioning clean technology. Not a slum, traffic jam or pollution-belching factory was to be seen.

Tomorrowland opens with grizzled George Clooney as Frank Walker telling us that when he was a kid, the future was different, whereupon we see his young self enthusiastically toting his homemade jet pack invention to the World’s Fair. His creation needs more time in the lab, but while there he encounters an immoderately self-possessed, British-accented girl about his own age named Athena, who will shortly usher him into a very privileged realm.

Forty-five years later, a slightly older teenager, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), also harbors fantasies about flying and the future, but they are seemingly dashed dreams; she’s obsessed with a Texas NASA rocket launch site that is now being demolished, a place where her unemployed father (Tim McGraw) was once an engineer. Her toy drone isn’t going to take her anywhere, but she mysteriously obtains something else that does: a small pin with a big “T” emblazoned on it that, when touched, instantly transports her to a beautiful wheatfield from which she can glimpse, very much as Dorothy and her companions did when thay arrived in the poppy field, an extraordinary city looming in the distance.

Frank re-enters the action nearly an hour in to voice his disillusionment with what the world has come to be since he dropped out, explain things to the curious  Casey and, inevitably, enable her ultimate access to the heart of Tomorrowland and its mysteries. Clooney enjoys himself thoroughly as the old grump whose creative flame hasn’t been entirely extinguished, but it falls more to Robertson to carry the film, which she does with great energy and appeal. The film’s immaculate, exceedingly clean look owes much to cinematographer Claudio Miranda and Michael Giacchino’s score energetically pushes things along. This movie needs to be seen in the theater!

The Tony Awards are this Sunday and 6th Street Playhouse is having a benefit viewing party with a fabulous dessert buffet and red carpet photos. Last year was a blast! VIP tables are $300 for 4 people and general seating is $40 before May 31st and $50 after June 1. Call 707 523- 4185 for more info.