Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hayao Miyazaki

I just finished watching Princess Mononoke, the 1997 American version of Hayao Miyazaki's animated "masterpiece." This is the third, I think, Miyazaki film I've seen, and only Porco rosso was not too annoying to finish in one sitting--and that had the benefit of pigs flying 1930s Italian seaplanes. Miyazaki's animation is way cool, but the story lines are absurd even for cartoons, and the dialogue would make George Lucas wince. Roger Ebert must have eaten a fabulous couple of meals before he saw Mononoke to put him in a mood good enough to call it one of the best movies of 1997.

There are, to be fair, good parts of this movie. The first half hour was pretty good. But as soon as the action stops and the talking starts, it's all downhill on a very steep grade. Maybe seeing the American version--with A-list Hollywood stars doing the voice work--rather than hearing Japanese and reading subtitles made this movie less tolerable. (And talk about type casting! Billy Bob Thornton as the greedy-but-likable bounty hunter; Jada Pinkett Smith as a tough-and-sassy prostitute?) If awful lines "sound" better as text, that would help explain how the script was written, though not how the movie was finished, nor how it has garnered such consistently rave reviews. Despite it's good points, way too many of this movie's 134 minutes (!) were laughably, cloyingly, bafflingly bad.