What is it about Disney films and the whole dead/lost mother thing? I'm not one of those moms who won't let their kids watch Disney films because they're too traumatic, or too merchandise-heavy, or too much a sign of the coming of the apocalypse or whatever, but I swear, everytime I hear there's a new Disney film coming down the pike, the first thing I think is "wonder how they're going to kill off the mom this time?" Anyhow.

That minor quibble aside, I enjoyed Meet the Robinsons. I didn't review the film theatrically, and for whatever reason we never ended up taking the brood to when it was out, so reviewing the DVD was both my and my kids' first chance to see it, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. We've had it on several times now, and so far, I haven't had any urges to rip the DVD player out of the entertainment center yet, so that's gotta be a good sign.

On the other hand, though, I also have a fairly high tolerance for High School Musical, Hannah Montana, and other kidfare. I know, it's probably some kind of double-standard that should get me banned from the cool kids' lunch table that I can even stomach High School Musical, which I guess I'm supposed to hate or risk losing my "serious film buff" cred, but I tend to judge kid movies by two rules: 1) did my kids like it? and 2) can I stomach repeated viewings of it? I also consider things like the storyline, the characters, the music, and whether or not the film is dumbed-down too much or filled with stereotypes, but if my kids hate it or it makes me cringe from the opening song, I'm probably not going to get that far.

Here's the basic Meet the Robinsons storyline: Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry), a 12-year-old boy genius, was left on the steps of the Sixth Street Orphanage when he was a baby. Mildred (Angela Bassett, in a fine turn here), who runs the orphanage, finds him there when she answers a knock at the door. Twelve years and 124 adoption interviews later, Lewis decides to give up on being adopted and concentrate on finding his birth mother. He decides that since he saw her when he was a baby, the memory of what she looks like must be in his brain somewhere, so he sets about inventing a brain-scanning device that will allow him to retrieve the memory. He recruits his friend and roommate Goob, a Little League baseball player with dreams of grandeur -- who suffers from sleep deprivation thanks to Lewis and his all-night inventing sessions -- to help him out.

Lewis enters his invention in the science fair, where he first encounters Wilbur Robinson, a boy from the future who has been sent to protect Lewis from the mysterious Bowler Hat Man. Bowler Hat Man shows up at the fair with his evil sidekick, Doris, a robot hat with arms like a spider, where he sabotages Lewis's presentation so that he can steal the project and take credit for it himself. Wilbur wants Lewis to go back and fix the machine, but Lewis refuses unless Wilbur can prove he really is from the future. Wilbur whisks Lewis off to the future in his time machine (I so want one of those!), where he meets Wilbur's zany family (the Robinson's, natch) and must save the world from the chaos that will ensue if Bowler Hat Man succeeds in his nefarious plot.

The energy and storyline of Meet the Robinsons keeps it moving along at a brisk pace. There's lots going on in this movie to keep the kids (and their adults!) interested -- time travel, a "futuristic" city, spaceships and singing frogs -- all revolving around the story of a boy who wants desperately to be loved, figuring out whether the best path to find that love is in the past or the future. The adoption aspect of the film -- that Lewis was abandoned at the orphanage by his birth mother, and that the resolution of the film has to do with whether Lewis should stop his mother from leaving him in the first place, or let things be as they were, and look to the future for love and happiness -- might inadvertently be disconcerting to any birth mothers, adoptive parents, or adopted children in the audience, but if you know it's there, you can choose yourself how to deal with any questions this raises in your particular family.

The DVD itself is nicely packaged. The movie, as I'd expect since this is a newer film and not a restoration of an older one, looks gorgeous on-screen. The disc includes a few extras: deleted scenes, audio commentary by director Stephen J. Anderson, "inventing the Robinsons" (which follows the development of the film from concept to creation -- pretty cool), a game called "Family Function 5000", and a featurette on "Inventions that Shaped the World" which is neat for any kids out there interested in growing up to be the next Thomas Edison. There are also two music videos for "Little Wonders" by Rob Thomas and "Kids of the Future" by Jonas Brothers. The latter was a huge hit with my 10-year-old daughter, who "adores!" the Jonas Brothers; adults will recognize the song as being a remix (with slightly altered lyrics) of the Kim Wilde song "Kids in America."