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Review: Porco Rosso

In general, studio Ghibli films are fairly universal. This is to say that though they are G rated, they are usually as enjoyable for adults as for children. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Porco Rosso.

The biggest problem is that this movie seriously strains my suspension of disbelief. This may seem strange, becuase other Ghibli films involve someone accidentially visiting the bathhouse of the gods, or a young witch running a courier business from her broomstick, or giant cats which act as buses for friendly, furry, behemoths. However, those movies have a sense of wonder and timelessness. They feel like fairy tales, and the viewers are simply drawn in.

Porco Rosso, on the other hand, has a definite place: the adriatic sea. It has a definite time: the early 1930s. It has exactly one supernatural element: a main character who, for some reason (we are never told exactly how or why) has been transformed into an anthropomorphic pig. Of these things, only the fact that we never learn anything about the origins of the curse even though the question comes up within the movie diminishes its quality.

The parts which really try my suspension of disbelief are much more mundane. A bounty hunter not only lets a group of pirates escape after defeating them, he lets them keep a portion of the treasure that they had stolen, which he was sent to recover, so that they could repair their craft. They swear personal vengeance on him, though, becuase the money he let them keep was insufficient to complete repairs, so they had to go into debt to resume piracy. Later, these pirates ambush the bounty hunter when he returns to his home. However, a glib teenager (who had befriended the bounty hunter, and insisted on traveling with him) talks them out of performing any vengeance at all. Instead, in the space of a day, the pirates assemble a grand carnival at this ‘remote’ location with hundreds of visitors, so that the bounty hunter can challenge a mercenary the pirates had hired in single combat (even though the mercenary was no longer in the pirates’ employ).

In short, it felt like there was little or no logical connection between any two scenes. I’m fairly forgiving about errors pertaining to physics and special effects; those are to be expected from moviemakers who care more about entertainment than accuracy. However, I do have a marked preference for films in which I can expect pirates to be at least a little bit ruthless and mercenaries to be more than a tad self-interested. I also prefer movies in which the plot resolves, instead of just ending. Porco Rosso does not achieve any of these things.

If your aim is to watch every movie studio Ghibli has ever produced, if you don’t care about being able to figure out why characters act the way they do, or if you’re under 10 years old: in those cases, you will probably want to watch this movie. Otherwise, you’d probably be happier watching something made for grown-ups.

Genre: kids’ action
Emotion: imagine Humphrey Bogart starring in Disney’s “Tale Spin”
BTFS: .23

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