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Candy-cane optimism tastes sweet in Disney’s Tomorrowland

A wholesome family adventure that stays the right side of cloying

Film Review I don’t think there’s ever been as Disney-esque a movie as Disney’s new offering, Tomorrowland, from writers Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and Damon Lindelof (Lost).

It’s an old-school family adventure about hope and optimism that’s also chock full of corporate in-jokes (many Star Wars props) and product placements based on a Disneyland theme park ride. And yet, somehow, it works.

Disney has tried hard to keep the plot under wraps, but suffice it to say that there’s a mysterious world called Tomorrowland that’s the epitome of joyful 1960s’ visions of the future, like a live action Jetsons set, full of clean, white pavements, gleaming, glass skyscrapers, flying cars, jetpacks, rocket ships and plenty of green, leafy parks.

The entirely wholesome and cheery teen Casey (Britt Robertson) catches a glimpse of this magical world by touching a pleasingly retro-cool badge with a big 'T' on it and sets off to get there. Along the way, she picks up a grumpy adult called Frank (George Clooney) and a wonderfully played little English girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who knows more than she’s letting on.

The set-up is familiar Stephen Spielberg-style territory (Indy and Short-Round in Indiana Jones, Alan Grant with Lex and Tim in Jurassic Park): an embittered old grump is renewed by youthful enthusiasm and bravery but it still works as well as ever, particularly when the kids are charming and interesting instead of annoying brats.

We should find Casey’s sunny disposition irritating and a bit naive, but her evident intelligence, humour and willingness to yell “son of a ... (convenient sound effect)” win you around, while Athena is a much more complex character than first meets the eye.

Bird and Lindelof’s message is made abundantly clear – technological optimism in the face of impending Earth dooms like climate change – and it’s also clearly a dig at the many teen dystopias we’re being peddled these days.

The whole hands-across-the-world thing is laid on so thick by the end that it almost ruins the movie, but somehow, it doesn’t quite do it.

It’s been so long since I saw a film so lacking in cynicism, to the point that I’d forgotten what it felt like. And, despite the fact that the jaded hack in me wanted to be unimpressed, Tomorrowland just makes you feel a bit warm and fuzzy. It’s fun, beautifully shot and full of the good kind of optimism, the kind you wish you could feel on a regular basis.

It’s not a perfect film, evil Hugh Laurie’s monologuing about what a waste of space humanity is rings a little too true and rather derails your urge to side with the good guys, and the resolution leaves a few too many questions unanswered.

But it is a lovely slice of family fun to balance out the dystopic fervour. After all, we don’t want to turn the kids into cynics too young now, do we? ®

Title Tomorrowland
Director Brad Bird
Cast George Clooney, Raffey Cassidy, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, Britt Robertson, Thomas Robinson
Release date 22 May (UK/US)
More info Studio website

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