I’m willing to bet the house that most guys wouldn’t mind a childhood without a father if 20 years later Dad makes amends by hooking junior up with the hottest woman on the planet, Olivia Wilde.

I’m willing to bet the house that most guys wouldn’t mind a childhood without a father if 20 years later Dad makes amends by hooking junior up with the hottest woman on the planet, Olivia Wilde.


Maybe I am being too flippant in that statement because once all the trippy 3-D effects are stripped away, “Tron: Legacy” is a cautionary tale to parents, warning us to spend more time with our children. It preaches to be more in the moment because one minute you can be like Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), tucking your son into bed, and the next stuck in a digital world with no escape.


That’s where this sequel to the first “Tron,” which hit screens in 1982 and later attracted a frenetic fanboy following, picks up. Twenty years have passed and Flynn’s estranged son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), is grown up. In a fit of nostalgia he starts screwing around with Dad’s computers. Like his father before him, Sam discovers (naturally, of course) the portal to a digital world, and poof – he’s off the grid.


Upon arrival, a confused Sam is outfitted into a skin-tight, black futuristic bodysuit with neon-green embellishments that seems to be standard issue in this virtual world. He meets the evil leader Clu – a computer-generated doppelganger of Bridges designed to look the actor when he was 35 (he’s really 61). Flynn was building a utopian world when he envisioned the Grid. Somewhere along the way, Clu took it over and Flynn went into hiding. In the real world, he was presumed dead.


After Sam fights his way through a gladiator-like competition against Clu’s soldiers, he’s reunited with Flynn. The rest of the film is spent in various stages of battle and bonding, as father, son and Dad’s gorgeous protege, Quorra (Wilde), journey toward the portal to re-enter this world.


While visually pleasing, even stunning at times, the film is brought down by its ridiculous script penned by “Lost” scribes Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. No matter how cool the movie is to look at – and that includes Wilde’s wildly expressive saucer-sized eyes – you can’t hang a 126-minute film on a frail story with characters spewing expository dialogue. And that is just what director Joseph Kosinski does in his feature debut. Inevitably, without a strong narrative to fall back on, the 3-D gimmicks and technical trickery grow tiresome because it’s the same thing scene after scene. How about trading in some of the effects for some emotion?


Well, that’s not what people come to “Tron” for. The visual effects are the main attraction and the film is helped along by a killer techno soundtrack from Daft Punk that pumps up the volume.


And you don’t need to have seen the first film to jump onboard. Before you even get to all the razzle-dazzle, there’s a half-hour or so of set-up to fill you in on what transpired previously.


Reigning Best Actor Oscar winner Bridges’ presence as both Flynn and Clu adds gravitas and even some humor. You can’t help but think his Flynn is just like a virtual version of the Dude, the iconic character he played in “The Big Lebowski.” Decked out in an all-white Indian guru getup, Flynn at one point tells Sam, “You’re messing with my Zen thing, man.”


Wilde’s Quorra has no business being as layered as the actress plays her and Michael Sheen provides some light, if brief, moments as Castor, the fun-loving “libations for everyone” good-time guy of this alternative world.


“Tron: Legacy” is at its best when it’s being cheeky like this and at its worst when it tries to take on deep topics like existentialism, religion and genocide. After all, this is a Disney film.


So what’s next? A “Tron” theme park attraction to boost the Magic Kingdom’s sorry Tomorrowland? Wouldn’t be surprised.


Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com.


TRON: LEGACY (PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language.) Cast includes Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. Directed by Joseph Kosinski. 1.5 stars out of 4.