Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Miyazakiesque Miss

I mentioned Rango and Fantastic Mr. Fox as examples of that rare commodity: kids' films that are equally satisfying for the adults. Another deeply satisfying entry in that category was the sublime Secret of Kells.

On the other hand, I had the great misfortune to see Hop at the second-run theater recently, and I had to physically remove myself from my wife and kids and take refuge in the theater next door (which was showing an idiosyncratic film called Hanna). Oh Gawd was Hop execrable; but the kids liked it.

Not as much as they (and we) liked the Secret of Kells, though, and so we set out Monday to take in Mia and the Migoo, secure in the knowledge that it was brought to us by "the same company" that brought us Kells. As it turns out, what that meant was not the same animation company, but the same distribution company.

That quibble aside, Migoo was far from a bad movie; we all enjoyed the experience. But here's the thing: it was meant as an hommage to the work of animation genius Hiyao Miyazaki. And if you do that, it's kind of like a barroom power trio covering the Jimi Hendrix Experience. You'd better be damn sure you're brilliant. And on that score, Migoo was a miss.

The story hits all the Miyazakiesque notes: unflappable girl protagonist; her plucky boy sidekick; endangered ecosystems; unusual aircraft; helpful supernatural beings; even a bad guy who turns out to be not so bad after all. But it's kind of like the Reader's Digest condensed version of a Miyazaki story. And if you've been spoiled by the master's attention to detail, subtlety, character development, and enigmatic sense of mystery, Mia and the Migoo can't help falling short.

That said, the film is wonderful visually, particularly in its use of color. There are many evocative moments, and the English-language release has some great voice talent. I don't have a problem recommending it. But if you haven't worked you way through Miyazaki's back catalogue – do that first.

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