When the hacks at Disney decided to release Hiyao Miyazaki’s works on DVD, I was intrigued. I admit I’ve heard very little about Miyazaki and his works, but I was intrigued nonetheless. I’ve seen both “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, and “Princess Mononoke”, but little did I know with these movies were an actual legacy and fan following, so when I heard his films were being released on DVD, I stopped at the store and stocked up on a few of his films. The one I did hear most about though was this, and I was once again intrigued and very fascinated with what the cartoon looked like, and it’s a truly good film.
Set in post world war two Europe, the skies have basically been taken over by renegades and pirates who fly around taking hostages and stealing from cruise ships, but there’s one person who stands in their way, a freelance bounty hunter named Porco Rosso. The weird thing is, Porco is a flying pig, a man once known for his amazing feats as a war pilot was granted with a curse that turned him into a walking talking pig. Accepting his fate, he flies around the world running missions and stopping pirates in their tracks whenever he can. The problem now is the French police are on to Porco who is a fugitive but he journeys to Milan regardless to get his beloved plane repaired after being shot out of the sky by rival pilot Dan Curtis.
Now with the police catching on to his location, he has to flee back to his deserted island home with his new unwanted sidekick Miss Fio, the daughter of Paolo Piccolo, his trusted mechanic, but when he arrives he’s greeted by an ambush from the Auito Gang and Mamma Auito boss who want him dead. I plead ignorance and admit I’m not familiar with Miyazaki’s style; I don’t know his undertones of his stories, nor do I understand them all too much, but if “Porco Rosso” is any indicator, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship between me and the works of Miyazaki. With Miyazaki, good animation is basically a given, but with “Porco Rosso” it was a clear demonstration of his talent for genre fare and telling stories while managing to perfect the attitude of old time serials where pilots, regular men, were heroes of the world.
This flight of fancy is an amazing movie, one that just left me stunned with incredible visuals of dogfights, roaming hills and lush landscapes along with beautiful glimpses at the European countryside. Miyazaki didn’t intend to make this movie targeted at kids, but nonetheless kids love it, and I can see why. Parents actually looking to raise a child with a brain, and some actual imagination might want to take them away from the “Yu-gi-Oh” and “Pokemon” and show them a movie like this with some actual substance and creativity. I love animation, I love the genre, but cartoons these days are lacking in substance and imagination but you will not get that with Miyazaki, no. If you want originality meshed in with a dash of the whimsical, you go with Miyazaki whom mixes in elements of fantasy, the real world, excitement, Aesop, and romance with a bit of eccentricity. He’s original and brilliant in visualizing worlds only located in childhood fantasies.
Miyazaki gets it, he understands fantasy, he knows that the best fantasy is that which is based on the surreal, and he uses his own love for planes and implants it into this movie. With his movie, we’re given a range of great funny eccentric characters from people like Miss Fio (voiced by Kimberly Williams) the rambunctious, precocious, independent, proud, and mighty sidekick and thorn in the side of Porco. Strong female heroines are a staple of Miyazaki’s films, and we’re given one that we can really root for. She’s smart, headstrong, and takes control of the situation and everyone respects her, even the pirates who take a liking to her for her strong will, and then there’s the very beautiful Miss Gina (Susan Egan) another smart independent heroine who is in love with Porco, Dan Curtis (Cary Elwes in a strong performance), Porco’s rival, and the only pilot who can match him blow for blow, and of course Porco.
The character Porco is a lot of fun, because he accepts the fact he’s become a pig because of his curse and somewhat struts around as a pig with pride, because really when he’s out in the sky out flying the best pilots in the world, his snout and long ears don’t really matter much, but in effect that’s what makes the other pilots hate him more. Plus, he gives new meaning to “When Pigs Fly”, an obvious and funny pun from Miyazaki. We never learn what and who made Marco into Porco, and that’s what makes Porco all the more intriguing. Actor Michael Keaton gives some really good voice as Porco and is very with a snorty rough voice of a pig. Other good performances within the cast at Brad Garret as Boss Auito, and David Ogden Stiers as the hilarious Paolo Piccolo.
I’ll say the obvious and declare that this film is genius in its animation with some incredible sequences that just completely rival anything Disney’s released in the past five years with some amazing aerial views and exciting dogfights, and perspectives that are amazing. It’s sheer pretension that has people believing that hand drawn 2-D animation is all but obsolete, but Miyazaki proves my opinion that hand drawn animation isn’t obsolete, and that, in the right hands, there’s still so much use for it, and so much to be done with it that the hacks at Disney can never accomplish. He has imagination, something that Disney should try to influence again. “Porco Rosso” is an unusual film, but for people who read my reviews, unusual means original, and unusual goes a long way for me. Miyazaki challenges the minds and imagination of his audience with a fun, and exciting fantasy about flying pigs, and fighter pilots. Underrated and exciting. Check it out as soon as possible.