For a story set in multiple dimensions, it’s not surprising that this $190million Disney film is all over the place.
All credit then to George Clooney as grumpy genius Frank who gives his all to a part that is, in some of its more misguided moments, somewhat icky.
He is effectively a bit part player in a sci-fi film carried by two young women who themselves are elbowed out the way by director Brad Bird’s overfull imagination.
So excitable is the man behind The Incredibles that the film becomes a sugar-infused boy in a toy shop.
It runs here and it runs there, turning on the spot and giddy, never stopping still long enough to ask some basic questions like “what am I doing here?” and “what’s it all about?”
Bird creates some stunning visuals that draw on a retro-futuristic scrapbook while making cheeky nods to Disney’s back catalogue. Then, a little too late, the Pixar supremo decides to slap a story on top.
Tomorrowland – sharing its name with a feature in a Disney theme park – is an actual place, its origins and purpose only vaguely suggested and its location somewhere close, in another dimension.
Boy inventor Frank Walker goes to the 1964 World’s Fair with his failed jetpack and his dreams only to be dismissed by Hugh Laurie’s charmless David Nix.
Frank’s optimism is revived when young Athena (Raffey Cassidey) spots his potential and hands him a badge which transports him to the spires and wonder of Tomorrowland.
Years later, and expelled in disgrace from this utopia, gadget king Frank (now Clooney) is sought out by spirited Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) who wants answers about Tomorrowland.
Casey spends her days being smart and her nights sabotaging Nasa’s attempts to dismantle the shuttle launch pad such is her quest for the stars. She has been similarly collared by a badge-wielding Athena, who has mysteriously not aged.
Casey’s brief, tantalising trips to the shiny new world are in contrast to the broken Earth she inhabits, doomed to apocalypse, death and decline.
“But how can we fix it?” she asks her teachers when shown pictures of collapsing glaciers and mushroom clouds.
The “fix-it” question is pertinent but before she realises she’s the chosen one she and Athena are chased around the streets by ray-gun-wielding androids whose purpose is never fully explained apart from to add peril, which the plot does not naturally supply.
So what is it all about?
We do get a wrap-up lecture (from the excellent Mr Laurie) which manages to be true, hokey and pious all at once but this merely serves to drag us from the hope of new tomorrow to the Disney gift shop.
However, flaws in tone and story shouldn’t detract from the ambition, pace and inventiveness of a family outing firmly in the Disney tradition.