Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Porco Rosso

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
One of director Hayao Miyazaki's ("Spirited Away", "Princess Mononoke") earlier works is a film called "Porco Rosso". "Porco Rosso", like his other films, is an animated movie and this one features a pig as an ace pilot and bounty hunter. But before we think this movie is going to veer into the territory of Looney Tunes, Porco is the only character in the movie who is not human and we learn later midway through the movie that he used to be human but seems to be cursed in some way. The rest of the film is grounded a sense of reality, though a slightly skewed reality.

Porco (voiced by an unrecognizable Michael Keaton) is a sea-plane pilot and a bounty hunter. He works for money and usually to protect others (still for pay, not out of any generosity of spirit as he claims he has none). Early in the film we see Porco foil a kidnapping by a bumbling sea-plane pirate gang, and the pirate leaders from the region are out to put a stop to Porco's success against them. They bring in this American pilot (voiced by Cary Elwes), one of the fastest in the world. The American's job is to make Porco look silly and to put him out of a job, if not kill Porco.

"Porco Rosso's" storyline does not progress the way I would have expected. Even though the film clocks in at 90 minutes, "Porco Rosso" has a leisurely pace that feels as if Miyazaki knows exactly where he is going and is in no hurry to get there. I was surprised by just how much humor there is in the movie. The pirates bungle and bumble quite often, but they also drop these throw away lines that are simply funny, but only when you're watching the movie. Trying to list a series of these lines wouldn't be funny when one line that made me laugh was simply "okay", but it was when and how it was said that made the joke. The other thing about this movie was that I was interested in what happens to Porco, and what did happen to Porco, and what will happen. I cared about the character and also in his Engineer friend and the friend's granddaughter (voiced by Kimberly Williams) who is just as good of an engineer as any and a very important character.

Simply put, the movie worked. On all levels. Animation gives the false impression that it is automatically for children, and children can and would enjoy "Porco Rosso", but Miyazaki's films work for adults as well. This is just a good movie. Period. It joins "Princess Mononoke" and "Kiki's Delivery Service" as my favorites Miyazaki movies and is one I happily recommend.

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