Lewis is left as an infant at an orphanage run by kindly Mildred (Bassett). When he's nearly 12 and still unadopted, the scientifically minded boy builds a memory-reading machine, hoping to recall his birth mother and track her down. Instead, when the device is stolen, Lewis winds up traveling to the future in a space mobile to catch the thief. It's in the future that he encounters the Robinsons, a wacky family who will play an important role later in his life, though neither he nor we yet fully understand the link.
"It's like Back to the Future, only funnier, shorter and animated," pronounced Fred, 7, my consultant on kids' movies. That's a touch hyperbolic, but there's plenty younger viewers will enjoy in this CGI-animated film. There's its dazzling vision of the future, filled with gleaming skyscrapers, pneumatic tubes and cranky robots, and its worthy message about moving forward with one's life. The tale starts off a tad slow and at points seems unnecessarily complicated, but there are loads of fun scenes and the vocals (especially by Laurie Metcalf as a boisterous scientist) are sharp. (The film is also being shown in a nifty 3-D version on 600 screens across the country.) (G)