In 1964, Lyndon Johnson is president of the United States, George Clooney is a little kid, and everyone's looking forward to having their own jet-pack. The young George Clooney (I mean the young John Francis Walker, played by Thomas Robinson) is trying to help everyone out by getting the $50 prize at the Hall of Invention at the 1964 World's Fair for his jet pack. Except, as he reluctantly admits to David Nix (Hugh Laurie), who is clearly someone Very Important, it doesn't quite work yet. David is less than impressed, but young Athena (Raffey Cassidy), says that she likes him, gives him a nifty enamel pin, and thus the plot begins.

I'm told that when I was four, I drove the rest of my family insane when we were at Disneyland by demanding to go on the "It's a Small World" ride over and over, though luckily I don't remember it. I would have remembered it if the ride had done what it does here, namely throwing people kicking and screaming into Tomorrowland. It is a pretty neat place, but it would still be better to have a little advance warning about going there. Every super-advanced form of travel shown in this movie is terrifying.

By the time Casey Newton (Britt Robertson, Scream 4) gets a good look at the place, however, some of the shine has worn off. She's the daughter of a NASA engineer (Tim McGraw), a literal rocket scientist, who is now all but out of a job as he supervises the dismantling of the space program. Casey doesn't like this one bit and keeps trying to sabotage said dismantling. She's a handful, this kid, though fortunately her brother Nate (Pierce Gagnon, Looper) doesn't have scary powers here.

Now, as mentioned, Tomorrowland is overall a pretty cool place, though everyone seems surprisingly uninterested in its location, which is apparently in a parallel universe of some sort. Yet somehow that isn't what people get excited about and the whole angle gets dismissed as an afterthought. Admittedly, the imminent End of Civilization as We Know It is a pretty worthwhile thing to be distracted by, but you'd think the dimension thing might have been discussed at least a little more. And seeing as this is a Disney movie, even the End of Civilization doesn't look quite as bad as you might expect.

Also, even things that would normally be seriously depressing aren't, because Disney. George Clooney's character is very safely cynical, never too much of a downer, and he certainly seemed to bring in the middle-aged women as usual. Once again, though, no one else seemed to catch what I thought was about the best joke in the movie: a minor character introduces himself as Hugo Gernsback, named after the man who founded the first sci-fi magazine, Amazing Stories.

Anyway, it has a decent plot, good acting, solid special effects, and while it did seem too long at times, overall I wasn't bored. And yet there was still something missing, and I think it's just as simple as tension. Never for a moment did I think the world was in any real danger of coming to an end. I just sat back and waited confidently for the happy ending, which arrived right on schedule. So, I don't know... maybe three out of five? I wasn't expecting an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, but it would have been nice to get something more than the tame version of that "It's a Small World" ride.

A steampunk gadget. The movie totally needed more of these.


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