It's a cat! It's a rabbit! it's an owl! It's...I don't know what it really is, I'm going with cat. My Neighbor Totoro.
Little Children rating:
Lars And The Real Girl rating:
Time to clean up on some DVD reviews I've had piling up over the past few weeks. Let's knock out the easy ones: The Rocker - boring boring boring skip it, Step Brothers - trash everything except the mini opera at the end Will Farrel lip syncs to while John C Reily inserts the phrase "Boats and hos" at random- finishing with a giant drum solo, and now we can get on to the actual reviews of movies all about the inner child-
Little Children (2006)
Kate Winslet kicks acting ass all over the place in this wryly amusing/condescending take on upper middle class ennui. Winslet's ability to transform is geared towards being wholly American and she pulls it off beautifully as a stay at home mom feeling stifled by her existence. The sense of quiet desperation is almost palpable. She gets into an affair with Nite Owl Patrick Wilson who is a stay at home Dad also feeling stifled. Meanwhile Rorschach Jackie Earle Haley is a recently released pervert towards children who moves back home while the neighborhood, including an over zealous watchdog guy, is disgusted. Haley's is ultra creepy and magnetic in his performance as a pervert who can't be any other way.
Little Children has a voice over done in a sort of anthropological style that adds a smugly amused twist that goes over well. Although the title would seem to involve the safety of little children from horny parents and child molesters, it's really about how adults are little children. Children with the ability to either fight with or give in to their deepest impulses and the consequences that follow. I watched this movie in parts when I had spare time, it was like a good book that couldn't be put down.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
This was the rubber match for Hayao Miyazaki and me, he was 1 and 1 after Ponyo. So My Neighbor Totoro is about a family that moves into an old haunted house next to a forest protected by...I guess a magical cat? Like Ponyo there were small children who's behavior is captured accurately, mainly it was about two sisters and their Dad (who actively encourages their fantasy based worldview). The two sisters encounter spiritual dust bunnies and lobotomized giant cats as they adjust to their new home and fret over their ailing mother in the hospital. The younger sister keeps getting lost either in the forest or out in the country roads of Japan, causing a lot of stress and panic for her older sister. Their parents would worry, except they're usually not around (not even the same town) and just assume the kids are cool with whatever (they actually say something to this effect late in the movie). I dunno, maybe it's an American thing to want to be all up in your kids business 24/7?
Totoro wasn't too bad, unlike Ponyo it reserved its fanciful moments for specific time periods (namely when adult characters weren't around, who were around more often in this one) so it had more context. In Miyazaki movies you earn adulthood by surviving the neglectful parenting you receive, an interesting message. If you make it to 18 without killing yourself, congrats and hopefully there will be some magic beings to protect you in the meantime. The title character Totoro was fun, a silent character that is often sleeping when not giving a shit eating grin. My Neighbor Totoro wasn't great, it wasn't bad though. A pleasant anime fantasy, Miyazaki squeaks by with me to go 2- 1.
Lars And The Real Girl (2007)
So this movie is about this lonely guy who buys a sex doll online and then decides it's his girlfriend. He talks to his doll, takes it to parties and places and basically interacts with the doll like a real person. The shrink tells the small town they live in to go along with this, so they do. Everyone in town treats the doll like a new friend. It's like a bad bar joke come to life. Reminded me a little bit of this guy I knew in high school, he cut out a picture of Traci Lords from the newspaper put it in his wallet and told others that she was his girlfriend. This was when she was in the news a lot that this occurred, so everyone knew who she was.
Did I mention this loopy movie is done without much whimsy? There's some, just not enough to bring any magic to this. Without the crazy attitude needed to make this story work, Lars And The Real Girl becomes sorta bizarre not in the main characters nuttiness but the town's willingness to go along with pretending the plastic girl is real. An entire town asking the sex doll how her day was, what would she like to eat, would she like a drink, go out for a night with the other girls, etc. Having a dramedy tone killed the suspension of disbelief for me, it was acted OK but the characters are painted with a childish tone similar to, well, a Miyazaki movie. Sorry, a sex doll doesn't have the same totemic fun as an enchanted fat kitty with an umbrella.
It wasn't planned, weird how all three movies had to do with a call to innocence to deal with life's problems. Lesson learned from these movies, if you choose that strategy without the assistance of mystical forces expect disaster or insanity in your life. Or maybe you'll look like Will Farrell and John Reilly in the clip below (warning, there is some profanity in the clip). What was it that Don Henley sang, "I'd like to meet your inner child and kick it's little ass. get over it!"