This makes for a film that isn’t particularly smooth and cohesive, but somehow Suzuki never lets it devolve into the type of postmodern pastiche where the humor comes from random non-sequiturs and anachronistic juxtapositions. He unwisely includes a weak subplot that breaks up the flow of the romance, music and adventure, but he makes the right decision to eschew manic editing. The craziness is contained, if just barely, and everything fits comfortably into Suzuki’s overarching vision, though his is a dreamlike vision divorced from ordinary reality.
Suzuki preoccupation with beauty is also addressed thematically within the narrative. Beauty is shown to be a powerful force independent from morality; a force capable of both good and evil. The prince’s father, for instance, is fatally consumed by pride in his beauty, while vanity hampers the budding romance between Amechiyo and Princess Raccoon. But the film also shows how beauty is an inspiration, a cause for celebration and a foothold for love. The film is neither particularly original or deep in what it has to say on the topic, but it’s self-aware about its superficiality.
The eclecticism in the art design is shared by the music numbers. Suzuki bounces around the world and across history with everything from traditional poetic pieces and show tunes to rap, tap dance, ska, hymnals, hard rock, opera and children’s choir. Like Hollywood musicals of old, the songs are funny and buoyant and more about having a good time than about demonstrating raw musical talent.
Suzuki’s biggest flaw in his musical numbers isn’t the questionable vocal training, but his limp choreography. He never quite manages either the graceful precision of geisha dancing or the effervescent energy of a Hollywood showstopper, though some of his concepts are intriguing, including dancing duets of women giving birth and sumo wrestlers who play drums on their massive bellies. Suzuki has always been better at composing static images than at capturing motion (it’s part of what makes his action movies so startlingly different), causing the dancing to feel poorly directed and less spectacular than the backdrops.
Walrus Rating: 7.5