White Magic

Howls Moving Castle, Shark Boy and Lava Girl

In all of Miyazaki's films, the past, or at least some bucolic, unspoiled, Europeanized past of his fertile imagination, is an object of nostalgic reverence. At the end, the castle—refurbished and reintegrated into a pretty, comfortable home—opens onto a vista of waving green grasses and wildflowers as sentimental as any Disney idyll, about as Swiss as the illustrated Heidi,and somehow enormously quieting to the spirit. For all his tragic vision of life—one scene in which Sophie and the Witch pant up endless flights of stairs is frankly Sisyphean—Miyazaki's work is washed through with a fundamental decency and compassion that, to judge by his robust box office in Japan, has pierced even the leathery hides of underage anime fans. It certainly pierced mine.

* * *


The Adventures of Shark Boy
and Lava Girl in 3D

I doubt whether even Miyazaki, who, in a rare interview granted to TheNewYorkerlast year, waxed sniffy about the current young Turks of animated film, would take umbrage at Robert Rodriguez's TheAdventuresofSharkBoyandLavaGirl3D,even if it does gaily propose that dream life has the edge over reality. Written and directed by Rodriguez from poolside stories he developed with his 7-year-old son, this slight but immensely enjoyable charmer features Max (Cayden Boyd) as a sensitive little boy (what other kind is there when there are monsters to be faced down?) who discovers that his imaginary world is more fun, and in short order more real, than a life of feuding parents and schoolyard bullies. Before you can strap on your 3-D glasses, Max and salient others in his tormented life are whisked off to Planet Drool, which is amply stocked with sick-making roller-coaster rides, extension cords that think they're snakes, banana splits that make nice boats, and a nasty Mr. Electric (George Lopez) with a marked resemblance to Max's homeroom teacher. All of these the lad negotiates, with a brief stopover in the Land of Milk and Cookies, in the company of his two finest creations, the well-finned Shark Boy (Taylor Lautner) and the overflowing Lava Girl (Taylor Dooley). Much hair-raising fun is had on the Train of Thought and the Stream of Consciousness, excellent embodiments of the loosely associative world of today's fully digitalized youth. There are some fine, upstanding messages about friendship, identity and selflessness, but I wouldn't fret too much about those. After the truly horrid SinCity,it's a relief to see Rodriguez let his inner Spy Kid out to play again.

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE WAS WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY HAYAO MIYAZAKI, ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ADAPTATION BY CINDY DAVIS HEWITT AND DONALD H. HEWITT, BASED ON THE NOVEL BY DIANA WYNNE JONES; PRODUCED BY TOSHIO SUZUKI. OPENS JUNE 17.

THE ADVENTURES OF SHARK BOY AND LAVA GIRL 3D WAS WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ROBERT RODRIGUEZ; PRODUCED BY ELIZABETH AVELLAN AND RODRIGUEZ. NOW PLAYING COUNTYWIDE.

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