Porco Rosso (1992)
2008-03-25 17:42:44 ET

As I have previously stated, anime needs to prove itself with me. Hayao Miyazaki has hands down proven himself. I haven't seen all his movies yet, but every one of them that I have seen I've thoroughly enjoyed. So here's another one of his, and along with it a big spoiler: I loved it.

"Porco Rosso" (or "Kurani no buta") is the story of an ace fighter pilot for hire cursed with the head of a pig. In the late 1920's he battles pirates and fascists, romances the ladies, and stays one step ahead of a rival out to bring him down. Apparently this whole thing was commissioned by Japan Airlines as an in-flight movie, which proves Japanese airline companies are just cooler than others.

A lot of things about this movie amazed me, but most notable was the historical accuracy. Once you get past the seaplane-flying pirates and the hero's porcine features, it's a reasonably plausible story set around the rise of Mussolini in Italy. Granted, he's never mentioned by name, but his influence is everywhere. There are a few flashbacks to World War I air battles, which also depicts the aircraft of both sides with a better-than-reasonable amount of accuracy. And, of course, most of the female characters seem to be wearing the height of flapper fashion.

Details are great, but they do not an excellent movie make. Fortunately the content more than backs it all up. It's a fun, faced-paced jaunt that touches on some deeper and darker themes without being swallowed by them. When the movie indulges its occasional fairy tale moment, it often does so with astonishing beauty. One standout sequence involves KIA fighter pilots flying their ghost planes toward heaven. Yes, it was cribbed from Roald Dahl, but it's still an amazing piece of film making. It also does my heart good to see Disney handle the American distribution of a movie where the characters smoke like chimneys and sling hot lead at each other.

Which brings me to the character voices. Yes, it violates my film snob sensibilities, and it makes the anime purists explode with rage, but the American dub is GOOD. Michael Keaton plays Porco with a world-weary, seen-it-all resign that we imagine Bogart would have used if he'd wound up with a pig head. Susan Egan is again the sexy tough girl, and again she rocks it. Cary Elwes plays the Southern gentleman out to take Porco out, and his American accent is quite good too. However, the standout performance is from Kimberly Williams as Porco's teen girl sidekick. She was consistently good, but some of her deliveries had a subtle, indefinable quality that managed to turn what would have been throwaway lines into immediately memorable Film Quotes.

There's probably more I could say, but you get the idea. See this movie, and then watch all of Miyazaki's other movies. I can't stress this enough.

2008-03-25 19:53:04 ET

i see you have not reviewed "DOOMSDAY"

i see how it is.

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