It’s amazing to me that a multimillion-dollar franchise containing fourteen films began with a movie containing so little. In its 69-minute runtime, it quickly runs through the “greatest hits” of family films for little kids: the parents die, the protagonist is told to follow his heart and just believe and all that crap, a scary conflict keeps arising, the scary conflict goes away every time, a spiritual mentor reminds the protagonist to follow his heart some more, the main characters set aside their differences and strife to safe one of their own, and the protagonist completes his journey to live happily ever after with his newfound family. It may sound like a lot when I list it like this, but in a movie, this all happens pretty fast. In this movie, it all happens without enough necessity – it happens purely because the powers that be (Spielberg, Bluth, and Lucas) want it to, so the movie feels lacking in substance to me. That being said, I think the franchise works because of its simplicity: it has common movie themes, goals, conflicts, and lessons, thus teaching kids the basics of the standard “Hero’s Journey,” and its cast of main characters are distinct from each other and each memorable and marketable in their own ways.
So, the story doesn’t do much for me, and I don’t like being beaten over the head with the “follow your heart” message, but the visuals are outstanding, and it’s a cute movie for the little ones.