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Article by Teddy Durgin

Should you see 'Tomorrowland' today?

"Tomorrowland" is a movie I desperately wanted to like. And after screening it? Well, it's been a movie I've been desperately trying to like ever since. I enjoyed the first two-thirds. But it's when the film's three main protagonists finally reach the fantastical alternate dimension of the film's title where most of the problems lie. First, the set-up was crafted by director Brad Bird of "The Incredibles" and co-screenwriter Damon Lindelof of "Lost." We meet the film's dueling narrators in the opening moments. Frank Walker (George Clooney) is a cynical inventor who went to the 1965 World's Fair as a wide-eyed child (Thomas Robinson) to show off a jet pack he'd been trying to invent, only to receive a special pin from a strange little girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). The pin ends up transporting him to Tomorrowland, a kind of Oz-like place for science-fair nerds where Earth's most gifted inventors, futurists, engineers and artists are invited to let their imaginations run wild, free of politics and bureaucracy. The second narrator is Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a gifted high-school student from today who is fed up with being fed a steady diet of pessimism on the news and in school in the form of dystopian literature, irreversible climate change, a moth-balled space program (her dad is a soon-to-be unemployed NASA engineer) and so forth. She asks herself and those around her repeatedly, "Can we change things?" Casey is surprised to find the same pin we saw the young Frank receive earlier. When she touches it, she is magically provided glimpses of Tomorrowland with all of its funky, futuristic spires; jetpack-flying inhabitants; and teeming spaceport. When she lets go of the pin, she's back on humdrum Earth. Eventually, she encounters Athena, who looks the same as she did in 1965, and together they track down the older Frank. Casey discovers the man's one great invention... a countdown clock that uses tachyon rays to pinpoint the exact moment in time the world will come to an end. Casey immediately knows the only hope is to actually make it to Tomorrowland where they can hopefully prevent Armageddon. This set-up takes WAY too long, by the way. I mean, if you're gonna call your flick "Tomorrowland," you should probably get there before, oh say, the 100-minute mark. And what Casey, Frank and Athena find is a strangely under-populated Tomorrowland when they get there. The film turns extremely vague in what has happened to Tomorrowland over the decades since its creation. It's essentially become one of those gated communities we have here on Earth, keeping out the "riff-raff." Even worse, it's apparently a dictatorship run by Governor Nix (Hugh Laurie). How did this seizure of power occur? Another problem I have is the exclusionary concept of Tomorrowland, especially in a film that is daring its young target audience to dream. Let's face it - this place is only taking the absolute best and brightest. It's great if your project won a ribbon at the science fair or you're routinely named to the honor roll or you're the star of your school play every semester. But if you're just an ordinary kid getting B's and C's or an ordinary adult trying to make ends meet each month? You ain't welcome. No child left behind? HA! The purveyors of Tomorrowland are leaving 99 percent of our sorry butts behind. I mean, who cleans the toilets, delivers the pizzas and drives the cabs in Tomorrowland? Or, is it all just automated? There's certainly NO room for a hack movie reviewer up there, I'll tell ya that! Then, even worse, when the chips are down... when the world is counting down to disaster... how do these gifted and talented people who have been whisked off to this wonderful place react? Do they use their vast knowledge and creative energies to save us, to save the world? Nope! It's doors closed, hands over their eyes and ears plugged. They won't even warn the great unwashed that their collective ticket is about to be punched. THAT'S COLD! I'll give the film marks for attempting to be more than just action and explosions. It really does try to get its audience to think. But I had an inkling the movie was headed for a spotty conclusion early when young Frank makes it to Tomorrowland with his jet pack that won't work. Upon arriving, a giant robot snatches it from him, flips it over and fixes what has been preventing it from taking flight. The problem with that? Frank didn't do it himself! He didn't learn anything! That can be said of the movie as a whole.

"Tomorrowland" is rated PG for sci-fi action violence, peril, thematic material and mild language.


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