HollywoodChicago.com RSS   Facebook   HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter   Free Giveaway E-mail   

Studio Ghibli Gives Fans Sweet ‘From Up on Poppy Hill’

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
Average: 1 (1 vote)
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – The torch is being passed at Studio Ghibli from the great Hayao Miyazaki (“Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away”) to his son Goro, who directs this week’s tender “From Up on Poppy Hill,” certainly not one of the best in the Ghibli canon but a well-made, enjoyable melodrama nonetheless. A full awareness that it’s kind of a cheap melodrama (one of the characters even says so) doesn’t change the fact that it is but the young Miyazaki’s visual palette is notably beautiful and the voice work is strong throughout. Briefly, I thought it was sweet, and how many animated films can we say that about nowadays?

Based on a comic and with a script co-credited to Hayao Miyazaki, one of the most important men in the history of animation, “From Up on Poppy Hill” tells the story of Umi Matsuzaki (Sarah Bolger), a gentle girl forced into something of a maternal role in her family. She cooks, cleans, and raises flags every night from her house on the hill to a sailor father who she knows will never return. It is the early ‘60s and he died in the Korean War. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics are coming and Japan is in cultural upheaval while Umi just keeps her routine going.

From Up on Poppy Hill
From Up on Poppy Hill
Photo credit: Studio Ghibli

Of course, “Poppy Hill” is about the shattering of that routine when Umi meets the charming Shun (Anton Yelchin), the leader of a house of relative rebels on her school campus. Shun’s house is about to shut down after years of clutter and disrepair have made it a blight in the eyes of the administration but Shun leads a school revolt that mirrors the cultural one going on in the country at the time. Youthful energy replacing strict procedure. He’s a rebel with a cause. And, of course, that draws Umi even closer to him until she learns something about their families that makes their impending love impossible.

“From Up on Poppy Hill” is essentially a teen romance. It has drama, love, secret pasts, and scary futures. It’s a young adult novel filtered through the artist’s eye of the Ghibli team. And I don’t mean that as negatively as it may sound. While it is essentially a cheap melodrama it is one with a beautiful sense of composition and a gorgeous score from Satoski Takebe. Miyazaki and his team employ a very painterly sense of background, putting a ton of detail into the settings like Umi’s neighborhood and the school buildings. The realism of the piece may be somewhat off-putting to people who expect the fantasy world commonly associated with Ghibli but there’s a gentle charm to this world that places it in the canon. It’s not a fantasy film but it’s a beautiful one. You can almost smell the sea air in Umi’s village.

From Up on Poppy Hill
From Up on Poppy Hill
Photo credit: Studio Ghibli

The American voice cast is stellar, fronted by a great, complex turn from Sarah Bolger of “In America” and “The Spiderwick Chronicles.” She imbues Umi with a coming-of-age innocence and yet also a maturity that defies her age. Yelchin is strong as the romantic lead and the ensemble is filled out with great vocal talents like Gillian Anderson, Aubrey Plaza, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Beau Bridges, and even Ron Howard.

“From Up on Poppy Hill” will be no one’s favorite Studio Ghibli film. It’s not ambitious enough to be truly memorable but I must admit that I found it enjoyable as it delicately unfurled. In today’s market of in-your-face, pop-culture-obsessed 3D mania disguised as children’s entertainment, it’s nice to see an animated family film that could be called delicate.

“From Up on Poppy Hill” features voice work by Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Aubrey Plaza, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Chris Noth, Beau Bridges, Isabelle Fuhrman, and Ron Howard. It was directed by Goro Miyazaki and will be released in Chicago on March 29, 2013.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Hot stories on the Web

User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing

TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • The Projects

    CHICAGO – The legacy of public housing is one of the strangest forces of karma in the City of Chicago. For example, sites that were once some of the roughest and most neglected housing for the poor now contain luxury condos. It is the people of those former hellholes that still remember the sorrowful history of what they once called home. The American Theater Company (ATC) have gathered these stories for the poignant and extraordinary “The Projects.”

  • Gambler, The 2

    CHICAGO – Browsing Dostoyevsky titles with consideration for proper roles for Mark Wahlberg, one might expect the Beantown hero to take on an adaptation of “The Idiot” before anything like “The Gambler.” After all, while Wahlberg has proven to be a diverse screen force - one who has well-grown past his Funky Bunch days - he often leans towards goofy men, or at least goofy men in goofy movies.

Advertisement



HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter

archive

HollywoodChicago.com Top Ten Discussions
tracker