Monday, November 26, 2007

となりのトトロ/ My Neighbor Totoro

(Movie Reviews)

I'm not exactly sure if this was a movie I should have seen a long time ago, or if it was a waste of time.

This is an older movie (about 20 years old) but in terms of cultural significance it seems to be one of the most famous animation movies in Japan, right alongside with Astro-Boy. Little minitures or stuffed animals of Totoro pop up everywhere you go.

I've also had several people recommend this film to me (which is why I say maybe I should have seen it along time ago). But despite the fact that my friends who recommended it were all fellow adults, this is a children's movie. And this is not one of those children's movies like Shrek or the Pixar cannon that also contains some humor aimed at adults. This is a children's movie purely for children. Nothing wrong with that of course, but let the viewer be warned ahead of time.

Roger Ebert wrote a pretty good review of this film in which he states:

"Here is a children's film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap...''My Neighbor Totoro'' is based on experience, situation and exploration--not on conflict and threat. This becomes clear in the lovely extended sequences involving totoros--which are not mythological Japanese forest creatures, but were actually invented by Miyazaki just for this movie...There is none of the kids-against-adults plotting of American films. The family is seen as a safe, comforting haven. The father is reasonable, insightful and tactful, accepts stories of strange creatures, trusts his girls, listens to explanations with an open mind. It lacks those dreary scenes where a parent misinterprets a well-meaning action and punishes it unfairly."

This is indeed the charm of the movie. It is also, depending on your expectations, the main weak point as well. Not a lot really happens in this movie.

Although this is my first time to view the film start to finish, I have been in the room when part of this movie was being played for a 1st grade Japanese Elementary school class. And I can tell you they absolutely loved it. The amount of laughter from the classroom was almost deafening.

So if you have kids, know kids, are or a kid, you might want to check this movie out. If you're an adult, you can probably safely give it a pass.

Link of the Day
Uncle Sam's Favorite Targets


Whisky Prajer said...

And yet the childless Ebert raves! I do think your observation generally holds true, however. I saw it when my daughters were roughly the ages of the movie's siblings, and recognized the ever-present protective worry and fear of the older daughter toward her younger sister. And I cried at the movie's benign conclusion, which seems especially astonishing coming from post-war Japan.

Having said that, there are Miyazaki movies that I greatly prefer over Totoro, including Castle In The Sky, Princess Mononoke and Kiki's Delivery Service.

ジョエル said...

Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke are both great movies. I still haven't gotten around to watching "Kiki's delivery service" but after reading your review I begin to think that maybe I should check it out.

inertbat said...

Wow, he gave the movie a great review. Thinking about it in those terms, I can see why it's so loved and talked about. Before seeing it I'd heard about how great it was and everyone seemed to like it so I was expecting a lot more. I came away totally confused. It was one of the most boring movies ever and I couldn't figure out why anyone liked it.