Friday, March 29, 2013
From Up On Poppy Hill
For "From Up on Poppy Hill," Studio Ghibli scion Goro Miyazaki steps into papa Hayao's imposing shoes and let's not mince words: his new film feels fresher and more fun than dad's last two ("Ponyo" and "The Secret World of Arrietty").
As ever in Ghibli films, there's a smart and capable girl at the center of "Poppy Hill": Umi, who lost her sailor father during the Korean War but still sends nautical flags up a homemade pole each morning to communicate with him. She becomes the good luck charm of the large nerd contingent who populate the musty old "Latin Quarter" house at her school, working with them to clean and air it out and hopefully save it from demolition. In this effort she encounters Shun, the handsome new boy in town who knows the secret behind her most cherished photograph. The story is not the best in the Ghibli oeuvre - it culminates in Umi's and Shun's mad dash to find out whether their feelings are incestuous - but the look of the movie - set in 1964 in the harbor city of Yokohama, with a short detour into a pre-neon, Olympics-mad Tokyo - is so visually pleasing, and the usual stilted dialogue and exaggerated facial expressions so funny and charming, you'll be delighted to overlook it.