Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

'Tomorrowland' is sweet but mostly earthbound

'Tomorrowland' centers on teenager Casey Newton, who discovers a mysterious land and meets a scientist (George Clooney) who may hold the key to returning there.

View video

'Tomorrowland' stars George Clooney (l.), Britt Robertson (center), and Raffey Cassidy (r.).

Film Frame/Disney/AP

View photo

I suppose we should be thankful that, for a change, a great big summer blockbuster has arrived that isn’t chockablock with comic-book superheroes or buzzcut, maxi-muscled marauders. “Tomorrowland” is a rather sweet excursion into speculative sci-fi, and, wonder of wonders, it doesn’t even seemed primed for a sequel. But this movie about the thrill of the visionary is, alas, mostly earthbound.

Directed and co-written (with Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen) by Brad Bird, who made the marvelous animated features “The Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles,” the film centers on Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a precocious Texas teen whose dad (Tim McGraw) was once a NASA engineer at a rocket launch site. Now, to her horror, the site is being demolished.

About these ads

Casey becomes the recipient of a mysterious pin with a big “T” emblem, which briefly enables her to enter what appears to be a model city of the future, complete with model people. Back home in the present, she is soon aided by a benevolent pre-teen bot (Raffey Cassidy) and pursued by bot meanies, ending up paired with Frank Walker (George Clooney), an ornery hermit scientist who may hold the key to a return trip to Tomorrowland. This is assuming it exists at all and is not a wish-fulfillment fantasy.

Recommended:The 50 best movies of all time

Considering that Bird comes out of animation, the visuals in this movie are for the most part surprisingly prosaic (like something out of, maybe, “Spy Kids.”) A vision of the resplendent (or not-so-resplendent) future ought to carry more oomph than this. Still, there are compensations: Robertson and Cassidy are spunky and Clooney is amusingly grizzled, and there’s a marvelous set piece where the middle of the Eiffel Tower suddenly turns into a great big rocket shooting into the night sky. The film’s eco-friendly concerns and general tone of messianic optimism are welcome. “Tomorrowland” is really a civics lesson disguised as a summer escape flick. Grade: B- (Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language.)