Big summer blockbusters are so rarely optimistic that it's tricky to know how to take this movie, its utopian view of the future is a refreshing antidote to both dystopic-nightmare thrillers and those blood-boiling, doom-and-gloom documentaries about how the end of the world is nigh. Even more interesting is the idea that this movie is essentially based on Walt Disney himself, who believed creativity and invention were the key to a happy tomorrow. So it's a bit of a shame that everything feels so childish.
The story centres on the restless Casey (Britt Robertson), an almost frighteningly brainy teenager who's trying to keep Nasa from closing down the launch pad where her dad (Tim McGraw) works. Unknown to her, the eerily ageless young Athena (Raffey Cassidy) is watching, leaving a pin that's a key to a magical glimpse of a parallel space-age future. Investigating this, Casey travels to Houston, where she gets in trouble at a sci-fi collectible shop. Rescued by Athena, they travel to New York to meet Frank (George Clooney), a grumpy old man who was once a wide-eyed inventor like Casey and has known Athena since 1964. Together they work out a way to get back to Tomorrowland to confront its pessimistic leader Nix (Hugh Laurie), who seems to have accepted the fact that the world is falling apart.
The script briefly grazes against big ideas like global poverty and climate change, which gives the film a hint of weight to balance out a plot that is clearly aimed at a 10-year-old. It's all rather simplistic, which means it doesn't quite speak to grown-ups, although the positive approach can't help but catch the interest. Director Brad Bird (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) keeps the imagery whizzy, with fabulous gadgets and thrilling effects work that beautifully imagines a city of the future. Plus a pretty cool Eiffel Tower revelation. He also makes sure that the characters' intelligence shines through, which allows Robertson and Clooney to inject a sparky sense of rivalry.
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