Mia and the Migoo

Posted on May 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

The influence of acclaimed Japanese animation wizard Hayao Miyazaki is clear in “Mia and the Migoo,” an award-winning film from French director Jacques-Rémy Girerd.  It has a Miyazaki-like brave young heroine on an eco-themed journey and random encounters with grotesque characters. And, like Miyazaki, Girerd remains committed to traditional, hand-drawn animation, a welcome shift from computer-created images.

But “Mia” incorporates some of Miyazaki’s weaknesses – narrative incoherence and a remote, chilly quality – while never reaching the soaring visual or emotional scope of “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke,” or even “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” And a weak script feels like “Ferngully 3: Revenge of the Developers.”

Mia (voice of Amanda Misquez) is a little girl in an unidentified South American country.  Her father, Paulo (voice of Joaquin Mas) has taken a dangerous job far from home to earn money to take care of her.  As he works on a luxury homes construction project in a pristine part of the rainforest, he is trapped in a landslide.  Mia immediately senses that her father needs her.  She visits her mother’s grave to say goodbye and sets off to find him.

The man behind the construction project is Jekhide (voice of John DiMaggio of “Futurama”), a callous bully who relies on bribes, intimidation, and worse to get the project done.  Gunpowder is “the smell of brute strength and power,” he tells his kind-hearted young son, Aldrin (voice of Vincent Agnello).  “I’ll take that flame-thrower as well,” Jekhide tells a weapons dealer (voice of James Woods), as he prepares to hunt down the mysterious creature that has been obstructing the builders.

 

The Yeti-like creature is the Migoo, guardian of an “Avatar”-style Tree of Life.  Mia and Aldrin will have to help the Migoo guard the tree or all life on earth will be at risk.

 

The Migoo are lumpen, golem-like muddy figures who are so dim-witted and consumed with bickering it is hard to imagine that they could protect a paperclip.  But briefly there is one intriguing suggestion that they – it – is/are not several entities but a single one, at the same time big and small, many and one.  This echoes Mia’s mystic connection to her father, somehow waking, hundreds of miles away, the instant that he was in trouble, as well as the theme of the film about our interconnectedness to our environment.  But it quickly gets lost in an unbalanced, too-many-cooks script (five credited writers).  Distracting flashes of crude humor dissipate any connection to the characters and odd encounters derail the momentum.  And the climax muddles its own message.

 

The total control permitted by computer-generated animation has achieved and even exceeded photography to reach a kind of hyper-realism, liberating the few remaining practitioners of hand-drawn animation to experiment with a more free-form, impressionistic form of story-telling.  Recent masterpieces of animation like “Coraline” or the “Triplets of Belleville” are thrilling demonstrations of strong personal taste rejecting many of the tools offered by computer graphics in favor of a distinctive personal vision.

 

This freedom puts even more of an obligation to make each artistic choice in service of the story.  “Mia and the Migoo” does have some striking images with strong blocks of color. They would be impressive illustrations in a book.  But animation, as the word indicates, is about movement.  The lack of fluidity in “Mia” is not an artistic choice; it is inadequacy that in close-ups recalls the lips-only action in old “Clutch Cargo” cartoons.

 

Girerd makes the odd choice of outlining most of his figures with a glowing alizarin crimson.  It may be intended to suggest the heat of global warming but it makes them look bruised.  Red underpainting seems to add a radioactive glow to the backgrounds as well, highly out of place for a movie which celebrates the rich greens and blues of fertile vegetation and life-giving waters.

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Animation Environment/Green Fantasy Stories About Kids
ir.gif

List: Earth Day Movies

Posted on April 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm

In addition to previously recommended Earth Day movies, take a look at these gorgeous documentaries about the creatures with whom we share this great planet:

1. March of the Penguins This worldwide sensation takes us to Antarctica, where these elegant birds triumph over brutal cold to protect their fragile eggs and tender chicks.

2. Meerkat Manor The ultimate reality show, this meerkat community has avid followers who mourned the passing of matriarch Flower.

3. Winged Migration Soar with the birds in this breathtaking film.

4. Microcosmos The tiny creatures of the insect world are explored in mesmerizing close-up.

5. Growing Up Wild, Vol. 1: Amazing Baby Animals Even the littlest children will be captivated by these adorable baby animals.

Jennifer Merin has a great list of Earth Day documentaries, too.

Related Tags:

 

Documentary Environment/Green Lists

Born to Be Wild 3D

Posted on April 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Orphaned animals, references to predators (including humans)
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: April 8, 2011
Date Released to DVD: April 16, 2012
Amazon.com ASIN: B0071L6T24

One way or another you’ll find yourself saying, “Awwwwww.”  The adorable baby animals and the grace and kindness of the people who care for them are guaranteed to warm every heart in the theater.

In Borneo, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas rescues orangutans orphaned by developers who cut down the jungle to produce palm oil.  In Kenya, Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick provides a home for the baby elephants orphaned by poachers.  More than five thousand miles apart, the two women care for different animals but share the same goal: to raise the babies without taming them, so they can return to a natural life in the wild.  Morgan Freeman narrates the story, taking us back and forth as we see the newest babies arrive and the adolescents “graduate.” The goal is to nurture them only as long as they need help and then find them a safe home in a nature preserve. They are “under human care but not human control; they need to retain their wildness.”

Some of the animals arrive traumatized.  A baby elephant who saw humans kill his mother has to learn these humans are different; they just want to feed and protect him.  Amazingly, the other orphaned elephants gather around to reassure him that he is finally safe.  They show him that a giant-sized bottle can be a good way to get milk.  The milk, by the way, is a special formula developed by Dame Daphne over 24 years, making it possible for the first time to raise an infant elephant without a mother.   Unlike mother elephants, humans are not big enough to cast protective shadows to prevent sunburn, so Dame Daphne and her colleagues rub sunblock on the tender ears of the baby elephants instead.  And elephants do not sleep well alone, so the keepers curl up near them at night. These are the cutest pachyderms on screen since the baby elephants marched to the Mancini soundtrack in “Hatari.”

The elephants are social creatures who create a community of their own.  In one very touching scene, when the now “ex-orphans” are brought to a sort of halfway house to get used to living away from the humans the current residents somehow sense that newcomers are arriving and come to the drop-off point to welcome them.  The orangutans interact more directly with their human care-givers, draping themselves along their backs and hugging their chests.  Dr. Galdikas and her crew have built a contraption for swinging and climbing to teach them the skills they need to find food and a safe place to sleep — a literal jungle gym.  She teaches them more than skills for survival; she makes each one of them feel special and cared for.  “As long as they feel loved,” she says, “they’ll have the confidence they need.”

The movie is empathetic but respectful to the animals.  It enlarges our circle of compassion by reacquainting us with our fellow residents of the planet.  Yet, it avoids getting cutesy or overly anthropomorphic.  These are not pets and they are not being tamed.  They are temporary guests, learning what they need to know so they can go home.  In the early scenes, we see the orangutans covered with shampoo and sharing a plate of pasta with Dr. Galdikas to the tune of bouncy American pop tunes such as Hank Williams’ “Jumbalya.”  Then as they return to the wild, the soundtrack turns African, more serious and stirring, and we share the mixed feelings of these dedicated people who have cared for the animals for so long.  We are happy that they are going home but know they will be missed.  We are hopeful for their future but worried that the wilderness left for them is shrinking every day.

This is everything a family movie should be: touching, funny, and inspiring.  And with a brisk 40-minute running time no one has to sit still for too long.  The IMAX 3D format may be overwhelming for children under five, but anyone older than that will find the baby animals hard to resist, the scenery breathtaking, and the devotion of Dr. Galdikas and Dame Daphne deeply moving.

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

3D Documentary DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Environment/Green For the Whole Family

Oceans

Posted on October 19, 2010 at 8:00 am

Forget about “Star Wars” and “Aliens” — there are creatures living beneath the waves on this very planet that are far weirder and more exotic than anything Hollywood has conjured up.
Huge, swooping creatures with bright speckles; shape transforming beasts that pounce and gobble up crabs; gelatinous monsters that glow; all this and more is captured in “Oceans,” from Disneynature.
The documentary is accompanied by a narration by Pierce Brosnan which sometimes gets overly flowery, but at its best adds an element of poetry to help young audiences understand that there is a larger significance to the images they are seeing. “Oceans” also offers a message of concern about pollution and the environment (appropriate for its Earth Day release). But the star of “Oceans” is clearly not the words but the pictures, and they are worth the price of admission many times over.
Scenes of the predatory side of ocean life are kept to a minimum, and are usually shot from a tasteful distance. There are cute moments — a sea otter floating on it back in the sunshine at Monterey bay keeps a rock on its stomach, to use in cracking open the shellfish it gobbles up– and tender moments– an ugly mother walrus sweetly nuzzles her even uglier baby walrus, or a mother seal coaxing her baby into the water for the first time. The cameras of directors/writers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud do a good job of conveying the vast range of the ocean, by contrasting the powerful crashing of immense waves in a storm with quiet glimpses of delicate life forms suspended in the tranquil depths; they contrast huge whales with tiny one celled creatures.

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Documentary Environment/Green For the Whole Family
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2020, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik