Based on the book "A Day With Wilbur Robinson", Meet The Robinsons is a film full of fun moments and some time-travel shenanigans, but it never feels like a completely satisfying movie. Seven people worked on the screenplay, including director Stephen J. Anderson, and it's a shame that not one of them could do enough to lift the thing from good to great.
Wilbur is a young orphan, seemingly destined to remain at the orphanage forever. None of the prospective parents who come to see him end up taking him home. He doesn't always help himself in that regard, thanks to a penchant for creating inventions that don't always work as they should, but he's a sweet kid desperate to feel wanted. Which is why he puts all of his energies into inventing a machine that will show any memories hidden away deep inside the human mind. He wants to see the face of his mother, who dropped him off at the orphanage years ago. Unfortunately, his invention gets the attention of the evil Bowler Hat Guy, which leads to a young lad named Lewis trying to help Wilbur out by taking him away for a while in his time machine. But time travel is only a good thing when people stick to the rules. It also helps if people don't crash the time machine. While Wilbur and Lewis try to put things right, the Bowler Hat Guy sense victory coming his way.
Mixing kid-friendly science fiction with some quirky humour and a nice retro style, there are lots of elements here to enjoy. The third act, that brings about a few revelations and ties everything together nicely, it very good. The sweeter moments of the opening scenes are also very good. But this is a film that spends its middle section just wandering aimlessly around between pointless scenes and too many redundant characters. Okay, they're not redundant in the grand scheme of things but the Robinsons are a large family with only one or two individuals who really stand out.
The vocal cast isn't a big help. Although everyone does a good enough job, it's a shame to have Angela Bassett, Laurie Metcalf and Harland Williams wasted in supporting roles. The latter has the most fun, and there are also small roles for Adam West and Tom Selleck, but there's never enough good voice work to shake the feeling that the whole enterprise is quite bland and anonymous.
Danny Elfman provides a decent score, which is as Elfman-esque as his usual work, and there's one great gag spoken by a dinosaur (well, he makes noises and it's translated - but you have to turn on the DVD subtitle option to read it), but that's about all I have left to say. I've run out of praise to sprinkle throughout this review.
Ultimately a bit of a disappointment, Meet The Robinsons is still passable entertainment. But it should have been much better.