Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SLIFF 2009 Coverage Part 5

Title: Egon & Donci
Director: Adam Magyar
Country: Hungary
Score: 6.5
Lovable inventor Egon, lives on a bucolic alien planet with his bulbous cat Donci. When Voyager 3 crashes near his house-farm-observatory, Egon is inspired to take a trip to the solar system we know and love. After many mishaps and adventures, the pair of hapless astronauts makes contact with Earth, where a rather depressing shock fails to totally damper their efforts at galactic friendship and good-natured fun.

Due to my special interest in Hungarian animation, I made an effort to see “Egon & Donci.” The film is charming and buoyant without being sentimental and cloying, reminding me of “Wallace and Gromit,” though not as hilarious or structurally perfect. It has a distinctive spirit that makes it more anomalous and interesting (though not necessarily as good) as Disney and Pixar output. I particularly liked Egon’s exquisitely textured ranch and the truly awe-inspiring scenes of outer space (leaning much more towards art than science in terms of accuracy). The character design was pretty unappealing to my taste, with both heroes reminding me of mascots for children’s cereal. Perhaps wisely, the filmmaker chose to make the film without dialogue, relying on sound effects and music for communicating to his audience. The result is a little too cute (familiar sounds used for space-age technology, like a car engine starting for a rocketship), but the music has several tracks that rise above generic techno to really set a mood of freedom and wonder.

Title: Mia and the Migoo
Director: Jacques-Rémy Girerd
Country: France
Score: 7.5
Mia is a young girl who sets out across South America to find her father, a construction worker trapped by a cave-in while working on a tunnel for a new resort (perhaps based on Burj Al Arab). She meets the son of the man in charge of the development project, an overstressed and violent capitalist distant from his ex-wife and child. His plan for a high-end hotel is being threatened by the Migoo, a group of friendly local shapeshifting giants that have sworn to protect the tree of life.

While thematically uninspired (Does every animated film have to be about saving the environment and/or robots?), “Mia and the Migoo” nevertheless puts a new coat of paint on a familiar outline. Each scene works well in its own right, but they remain a little too episodic to form a memorable story. What’s more important to how the film makes itself felt is the visuals, which are drawn with warm colors in a painterly impressionist manner. It gives the setting its vibrancy and seems to fit the local culture the tropical terrain. Kids will love Mia, the imperturbable hero and the adorably amorphous Migoo, but the film is easily good enough for all ages to appreciate.


Mad Dog said...

Sounded like you were trying your best not to come down too hard on Egon & Donci, regardless of the score. I, too, feel like seeking out more quirky animation becomes a balancing act in terms of how enjoyable it is for me at the end of the day. Quay Bros. were quirky as hell, but I enjoy myself a whole lot more watching Disney's Aladdin or Pixar's Up.

As for Mia and the Migou, it's disheartening to hear about ANOTHER gorgeous animated movie that worries far more about its visuals than its storytelling. I had higher hopes for Nocturna before I saw it collapse into another standard kids' adventure movie, and Renaissance would be just about perfect if only more attention had been paid to the story details. Hopefully you're right and the story behind Mia and the Migou is still strong enough to support the movie, regardless of how awesome the animation style is.

FilmWalrus said...

Egon & Donci was more fun than its individual parts would make it seem, kind of in a Chaplin/Keaton way. The ending was really pretty jarring though, especially the final credits that display a poem/rap ranting about Capitalism repeated in several languages.

Considering that I really like Nocturna and Renaissance, giving a general thumbs up to the storylines of both, I'd say "Mia and Migoo" is not for you. The story is, if anything, weaker than either of the others. At worst it occasionally feels designed to sell Migoo plushies.

I don't feel like you are fair to Nocturna (or Totoro) when you judge them from the perspective of adult cynicism. I feel strongly about the need for even kids films to have high standards, but when you are making a film targeted at very small children the story, themes and dialog must necessarily be understandable to the demographic.

Mad Dog said...

I hear you. And I'm probably not being fair. But it's how I feeeeeeeeeeeeel

Unknown said...

I agree with the flaws you describe with Mia and the Migoo. However, I did end up feeling positively about the movie overall, and like I would recommend it to friends with little kids.

Maybe you are just a grump : D