Tag Archives: animation

Way late review: Spirited Away

I’ve never taken LSD. After watching Spirited Away, one of my son’s favorite anime films, I think I know what it’s like to take LSD.

Not that it matters all that much, but here’s the synopsis and a juicy Oscar tidbit:

During her family’s move to the suburbs, Chihiro (voiced by Daveigh Chase) wanders into a magical world where a witch rules — and those who disobey her are turned into animals. When Chihiro’s parents become pigs, she must find a way to help them return to their human form. Adapted from the Japanese original, director Hayao Miyazaki’s adventure tale won the Best Animated Feature Oscar for its enchanting story.

What is left out of that summary are the images that will likely give me strange dreams and nightmares for years to come. A giant baby who morphs into an overweight mouse. Three ugly green bouncing heads morphing into the giant baby, morphing into a giant ugly man baby that finally transforms back to three ugly green bouncing heads. Not one, but two, identical witches with oversized heads that include a wart between the eyes that Uncle Buck would offer a quarter to have a rat gnaw off. A “stink spirit” that causes people to either faint or vomit or both. A boy who becomes a creature not unlike Falkor from Neverending story. Unlike Falkor, this creature bleeds from the mouth half of the time its on screen. Frogs with teeth. Raddish spirits. And those are just the ones I can’t burn from my memory nor am I likely any time soon.

Regardless, there is something hypnotizing about Spirited Away. It’s certainly not a coherent plot, character development, nor decent voice dubbing. Maybe it’s the world Miyazaki created and proceeds to run away with. I do have a certain admiration for the guts to do that. On the other hand, I’ve also seen Miyazaki’s Ponyo, a film that makes Spirited Away seem genius in all areas – storytelling, character development, voice dubbing, and all around coherence. The point is that Miyazaki was rather constrained with Spirited Away in comparison.

If you ever get the urge to eat an odd looking mushroom you find growing in the forest or experimenting with hallucinogens, don’t. Put on Spirited Away instead. I’m pretty sure the end result will be roughly the same.

 ★★½☆☆ 

This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.


Way late review: Winnie the Pooh

I had the opportunity to watch Disney’s latest Winnie the Pooh film with my six year old daughter. Much to my surprise, she wasn’t thrilled about watching Pooh and friends again. She informed me that she already saw it recently at school and wasn’t a big fan. I couldn’t help but think that I’ve ruined her. She only tolerated the hour long animated feature but she got excited when she discovered that we also had Planet of The Apes arrive via Netflix. While she sat in a trance watching Pooh, she was excitedly asking questions and making comments through much of Charlton Heston’s 40+ year old, 2 hour long sci-fi flick. Go figure.

Winnie the Pooh is a throwback. The movie feels as though it could have been made fifty years ago, which is good. The last thing I want to see is a hip post-modern Winnie the Pooh. If other studios owned the Hundred Acre Wood property I know there’d be an endless stream of ironic pop culture references followed up by Rabbit revealing he’s long suffered from OCD, Tigger declaring he’s bouncing everywhere instead of driving in order to do his part to cut down on carbon emissions, Pooh breaking down and confessing he’s addicted to the drug known as “huny”, and Christopher Robin serving as the terrible human out to crush all his furry little friends by developing the hundred acre’s into a theme park. Instead, Disney gives us the story of Eeyore losing his tail and his friends’ pursuit to help him find it. It’s just that simple.

The characters behave just as they always have. Tigger is bouncing along to his own beat. Pooh is obsessed with honey. Rabbit is passionately defending his garden. Piglet is scared of everything. Eeyore is pure doom and gloom. Owl is endlessly pontificating. Nothing has changed and all these characters interact in the ways we’ve come to expect.

The animation is classical yet never boring. A couple scenes use different styles of animation to mix things up. There’s a chalkboard drawing sequence and then a Pooh in a land of honey scene which are surreal. Both gave me flashbacks to that dream sequence in Dumbo. Even as a child I was convinced the people who came up with that little number were ingesting magic mushrooms.

Perhaps the best part of this latest adventure with Christopher Robin’s crew was its length – 63 minutes total. You have to love that. As much as my daughter wasn’t thrilled to watch the movie, she sat through it again mainly because it was over before she knew it.

I must confess something now. My daughter is not alone. I’m not the biggest Winnie the Pooh fan either. I enjoyed the movie for what it is, a short, fun, simple, and nicely animated film that doesn’t wear out its welcome. And for that I give it a slightly higher rating than I’d probably give it otherwise.

 ★★★½☆ 

This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.