Two Studio Ghibli Films from Disney DVD
The Cat Returns (June 5/05)
The Cat Returns is evidently based on a Japanese graphic novel, which makes sense given its bizarre and seemingly unfilmable storyline. The movie revolves around Haru, a klutzy, insecure schoolgirl who - after saving the life of a seemingly random feline one afternoon - receives an invitation to visit a secret world comprised entirely of cats. But when Haru discovers that the aptly-titled Cat King intends to transform her into a kitty so she can marry his son, Haru (along with a couple of sympathizers) must attempt a bold escape before the change is complete. The Cat Returns moves along at a brisk clip and features a bright, vibrant animation style, yet the film never quite becomes anything more than an entertaining time-killer. And though the movie features several bits of comedy that are clearly aimed at adults rather than kids, there's no shaking the feeling that younger viewers will probably get a lot more out of this than grownups.
My Neighbors the Yamadas
It's not at all surprising to learn that My Neighbors the Yamadas is based on a popular Japanese comic strip, as the film perfectly replicates the experience of reading the funnies - right down to the truncated storylines and emphasis on snappy punchlines. As such, there's no actual plot here; the movie follows the Yamadas - mom, dad, two kids, and grandma - as they live out their daily lives and attempt to deal with a wide variety of problematic situations. And while there's certainly plenty here worth recommending, the film simply isn't able to hold the viewer's interest throughout its overlong running time. Director Isao Takahata's animation style - involving watercolors and a distinctly less-is-more sort of vibe - is initially intriguing but ultimately distracting, as one eventually begins to crave an image with some detail (the washed-out look only compounds this feeling). Despite the inclusion of a few genuinely compelling sequences, My Neighbors the Yamadas essentially comes off as a series of short films haphazardly jammed together, and it seems entirely probable that the movie would be best served by a viewing in separate installments.