I think the original hope was that Meet the Robinsons would be spectacular, as it turned out, it's pretty good, but not amazing. That John Lassiter of the now combined Disney and Pixar animation studios, took it upon himself to spruce it up is possibly a good sign, although that kind of higher level interference isn't always a good sign. However, at least when it came to the choice of composer, they hit the bullseye. It seems that after a long-ish stretch of doing fairly serious scores, Elfman is back writing for more kids' films, it does help that Tim Burton has made/produced two films aimed at the younger market recently - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride. However, Meet the Robinsons is a little lighter and more manic than either of those, but none the worse for that.
Typically, the best descriptions of Meet the Robinsons - a cross between Flubber and Mars Attacks! - have already been taken, but are pretty much on the money. Having said that, I've never thought that Flubber holds together that well, occasionally feeling like a random outpouring of ideas than a coherent whole. Of course, this being a fun CGI animated, there are plenty of random musical asides, mainly in the shorter, central cues. However, back to the beginning, The Prologue is surprisingly low key, introducing the surprisingly sweet main theme, however the Elfmania kicks in with To the Future featuring an outstandingly infectious choral melody. It's rather a shame that the melody is given disappointingly short shrift overall, save for a brief reprise in The Time Machine Montage. It's cheesy as hell, but so outstandingly joyous and memorable, it really deserves more air time and makes a perfect counterfoil to the slightly more sincere melodies elsewhere.
The final three score tracks are the best developed and, outside of To the Future, the best music on the album. The Evil Plan conjures up a bit of Tim Burton style atmosphere, with glissando descending violin figures, while the improbably titled Doris Has Her Day is a great action cue. Setting Things Right is a fine finale with a brief choral motif to close out although, rather curiously, is unrelated to anything that's gone before. Anyone disappointed at the briefness of To the Future should give The Future Has Arrived, the punkier rock version, a spin, aided by a great performance by The All-American Rejects (so many to choose from). In my other musical life as a lover of orchestral pop, this particular arrangement makes me pine for Elfman to do a pop/rock album of original songs with a full orchestra. Not quite a Boingo regression, but certainly something that I think could produce a wild array of rip roaring orchestral rock, but also some typically terrific melancholy ballads.
The remaining songs are surprisingly decent, particularly those by Rufus Wainwright, although I must point out that, for ethical reasons, I cannot listen to Jamie Cullum, but I'm sure he does a good job of infecting Wainwright's songs with his own brand of simpering faux-jazz whining. Compared to Elfman's masterful Serenada Schizophrena concert work, these family friendly scores can start to seem a little slight and with less of the darkness and drama of Corpse Bride, Meet the Robinsons is perhaps the slightest of all, but that is countered by its terrific entertainment value. If you can get The Future Has Arrived out of you're head then you're doing better than me. As my sister has rightly pointed out, Danny Elfman is definitely some kind of film composing deity. Nuff said.