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.