4 October 2002 | kraley
A Fantastic Film (most literally)
Good morning. Last night I was able to catch the Disney US Release of Spirited Away ( originally The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro). This is another Disney purchase of a Japanese hit. For those that don't know, Disney has a nasty habit of importing titles from Japan and then changing the story when dubbing films or creatively editing the endings or plot to "suit American audiences". Personally I think that's a travesty. So whenever you go see the Disney release of a foreign film, realize the film you are watching may not be the 'same film' the rest of the world sees.
OK, that aside, was it a good film? I deliberately did no research before seeing this film as I prefer to go into films with little or no expectations. All I knew was that the film was directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki, the same man responsible for Princess Mononoke ( a film released a few years back that I also enjoyed). In the case of Spirited away, I'm glad I did not know what I was getting myself into, otherwise I might not have come (and surprisingly, not for the reasons you likely assume).
The film concerns a young girl and her parents who find an odd tunnel in the side of a hill while moving to their new home. Upon investigating the tunnel, they find a strange "theme park" on the other side devoid of inhabitants. Upon investigating the theme park, things are obviously very "wrong" (at least to the little girl- her parents seem woefully oblivious) and as it gets closer to sunset, things just get worse. Unfortunately, this is all the plot I am able to reveal without spoiling the uniqueness of this film.
This is an 'adult-oriented' movie. It has some rather disturbing images and ranks among the weirdest films I have seen in my life. It's a bizarre amalgam of Wizard of Oz,The Neverending Story, Alice in Wonderland, My Friend Totoro, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The City of Lost Children (just to name a few). This film is interesting from beginning to end even though the plot advances rather slowly. There is always some new thing to see or some truly bizarre thing to witness. The animation is above average but not as impressive as Mononoke (and even features several gratuitous CGI sequences).
There is a great story and some great humor. I laughed more in this film than I have at any Hollywood 'comedy' in the last 5 years (and Spirited Away is not a comedy, it just has several good comedic breaks). No nudity. No Profanity. No 'gratuitous' violence. Some rather disturbing scenes of characters getting eaten alive (and some threats thereof) but even the eaten characters return unharmed later in the film.
This is not really a 'family film' (and definitely NOT a "kiddee film") but it is something you can take the whole family to. Smaller children will not understand the story, but they'll like the visuals and enjoy the humor. Mid-teens might be a bit "weirded out" by the subject matter and the visuals and older teens and adults may be too jaded by American cinema to enjoy the film for what it is- a lavish fairytale from a foreign country. This film runs about 2 hours so leave the "kidney-buster" sodas at the snack bar. If you have to take a bathroom break, you WILL miss something and I assure you no friend nor helpful audience member will likely be able to adequately convey what it is you DID just miss.
If you enjoy Anime or the bizarre, make an effort to see this film. Even if you don't normally like "cartoon movies", you might give this one a chance. It is not a 'casual moviegoer' film by any means and does rely on some thought from the audience to enjoy it. It will also likely be the oddest film you'll see this decade and you'll be sure to remember this film long after all the other 'disposable movies' have faded from your recollection. This film is receiving almost no advertising. I didn't even know it existed until I saw the poster tucked away in a corner at the theatre earlier this week. I hope Disney puts a little more effort into advertising this film's release because it is truly an original film and worthy of a large audience. Hopefully positive word-of-mouth will get this film the attendance it deserves.