Again, this is not a new film. Porco Rosso (originally titled "Kurenai no buta") came out in 1992 and I'm only just getting around to seeing it. It's the story of a seaplane pilot in the Adriatic islands during a mythical 1930s. Porco Rosso is a bounty hunter who uses his one-of-a-kind seaplane to hunt down seaplane pirates who are terrorizing the Adriatic. Because of some ancient curse, the once-handsome pilot has been transformed into a pig, a fact that he exploits at every turn. When his plane is destroyed by Curtis, an American pilot working for the pirates, he has it rebuilt by a 17-year-old whiz kid engineer, who also happens to be a beautiful young girl with a crush on him. She insists on going with him to fight Curtis, and the fight turns into a mano-a-mano contest between the two pilots.
The Good: This movie is silly, silly, silly. The bad guys all sort of look like Brutus from the old Popeye cartoons and they're loud and obnoxious in the harmless way of children's cartoons. Even when they kidnap a bunch of little girls, they are absurdly tender nannies while the girls wait, unafraid, to be rescued. Piccolo, the old man to whom Porco Rosso takes his damaged plane, is hilarious, full of the sort of inappropriate comments that make cartoons funny (when a bunch of old ladies come to help rebuild the plane, he sighs "And the old hags have shown up"). The pig is as self-deprecating as his human opponent is boorish, making for a fun contest between the two. The flapper-era clothes are charming and sparkly, and the sequence where we learn about Porco Rosso's transformation from human to pig is beautiful and haunting.
The Bad: Porco Rosso smokes incessantly. I realize that this is supposed to be sort of noir-ish, but it's a kid's movie. Kids don't know from noir and they're not going to feel cheated if the hero isn't constantly dangling a cigarette from between his lips.
Enough with the underpants. Studio Ghibli is either run by pedophiles or is under the impression that the rest of the world doesn't believe that the Japanese wear underpants and is trying to prove them wrong through art. In every Studio Ghibli movie I've ever seen, we're treated to endless shots of little girls in their bloomers. I'm not saying these pictures are in any way dirty. I'm saying that it's a joke that even my five-year-old is sick of.
I initially put the ending down under "bad," because the ending...isn't. It's one of those that has the narrator saying "and how did it all end? Well, that's my secret." I was outraged at first, and then realized that it didn't matter. To not know meant that my daughter and I could mentally continue the adventure forever.
The Ugly: I waited thirteen years to see this. I think we'll be buying this, because it's worth seeing again.
I don't see nearly enough silly cartoons.