Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Another Miyazaki flick. This one is sort of odd. It's really charming; the two girls are adorable and their dad is a likable dude. Totoro himself is a fun Miyazaki spirit. The odd part is the movie's plot. It doesn't seem to have one. If I had to summarize it, it would be something like "A family moves into a new home out in the country as they wait for the mom to get better from an unspecified ailment. The two daughters discover that the nearby forest is home to some weird lazy-but-friendly spirits who sometimes do stuff. Mei gets lost one time, but is found by the Cat Bus. The end." It doesn't have a solid story arc. It takes a snippet from this family's life that doesn't have a big problem to solve. You kind of think that the mother is going to be either healed or die, but neither occurs. The movie ends with her still in the hospital exactly as she was when the movie began: not super sick but not well enough to leave.

Miyazaki's staples are present: strong young female protagonist, weird creatures/spirits, environmental message. It should be noted that My Neighbor Totoro doesn't hammer the environmental message that much here, actually, compared to most of his other movies.

The animation for the youngest girl, Mei, was fantastic. The way they captured the behavior of a four-year-old was quite impressive, and made her all the more endearing.

I enjoyed it, but it seemed more like an episode from a series rather than a stand-alone movie.


_Shane said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughs on this film Ryan.

I absolutely love this film. And my love for this film has grown even more lately with Syd's attachment to it. This is one of the few films she will sit through from start to finish. I agree with your comments about it lacking an overall conflict, but I think that is precisely the charm of this film. It works in spite of that.

Here is a quote from Roger Ebert about the film that I think sums it up well for me...

"It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need."

Not really contradicting anything you said but thought I'd share my thoughts on it as well.

Ryan said...

Thanks, Shane, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts as well. It's certainly a charming movie, one I could watch again for the individual elements. That's cool that Sydnie loves it so much!

I hope Frankie sees that Cat Bus picture. I included it mostly for him.

Angela said...

I thought this film seemed to be focused on the child's perspective more so than the adult, and because of that it might have had the gaping plot holes. Also, it seems like Japanese plot lines do not follow along the same lines as American plots.

I personally enjoyed the simplicity of being taken for a ride by this film, but it helps to know what you are in for before sitting down to watch it.