Porco Rosso
(Kurenai no buta) (1992)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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Marco, whose head resembles that of a pig as a result of some unspecified curse, is a flying ace, the best in the world, or at least in Italy, but an American pilot wants to defeat him in a competition in order to demonstrate that he is the better pilot and to win the heart of a woman, Gina, both he and Marco love.

Virtually every artist has stumbled in his career and produced a failure. Porco Rosso is Hayao Miyazaki's misstep.

While it is not actually a bad film, and has few faults to criticize, Porco Rosso is not nearly as accomplished as are Miyazaki's other efforts. The various adventures in which Marco finds himself are entertaining, but they are not memorable. The animation is well realized but is never imaginative, and the efforts at comedy, though not inept, are not hilariously funny either.

Marco himself is an amusing character, and his rival, the American Donald Curtis, is a comedic and likeable individual, not the wicked villain with whom most film heroes are presented. Both are, consequently, likely to appeal to the viewer, even if they never captivate him. The two women of the story, Gina and Fio, are, however, undoubtedly its most interesting characters. Gina is tragic and sympathetic, a person with a sad past who seems to fear the future, but who maintains an unacknowledged hope for happiness. Fio, a teenaged girl who designs a new plane for Marco when his old plane is damaged, longs to experience life and has not yet suffered its blows. While Miyazaki has made each of these two engaging on her own, by repeatedly contrasting Fio's enthusiasm and optimism with Gina's experience and sadness, he has enriched each character by the presence of the other. The two women are, in fact, far more intriguing than are either Marco or Curtis.

Lastly, I should say that while the animation used in the movie is technically up to Miyazaki's usual standards, it is strangely uninspired. There were few moments when I felt enchanted by the beauty of the images of the film, although the airplanes, which have been rendered as quirky, lumpy machines that could only fly in an imaginary world, are genuinely pleasing visually. The remainder of the animation is, sadly, undistinguished.

Porco Rosso is a pleasant diversion, but little more. It is, unfortunately, forgettable.

Review by Keith Allen

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