Review by Charles Peklenk
Porco Rosso, the Crimson Pig, was once a man, but after a mystical experience he now has the head of a pig, and the attitude of an outcast. The only person he treats as a friend is Gina, a singer at an island hotel who remembers him when he was just Marco, an Italian air force pilot. Now a mercenary flier, Porco defends cruise ships in the Adriatic Sea from air pirates for a living. When bested by Curtis, an American who flies with the pirates, Porco must defend his honor against the newcomer. He has his plane rebuilt by the talented young engineer Fiona and soon finds himself in a high-stakes dogfight contest against Curtis.
This movie is a milkshake of humor, good storytelling, friendship/romance, and action, but they don't blend together as smoothly as other Miyazaki works. The style wanders between a serious story about a man/pig who has lost faith in life and himself, and a silly comedy with the pirates improbably named "Mama Aiuto" ("Mama, help!"). When over, it seems kind of pointless, though the uncertain ending can be a source of some amusement, and adults will understand the story's subtleties (not "subtitles"!). In a familiar Miyazaki style (similar to Laputa), the bad guys can be unusually nice gentlemen when it suits them; conflict in the story is comic and therefore sometimes weak.
This movie is an extension of Miyazaki's hobby: model airplane building. It is not a kid's movie (Miyazaki said it was more for himself than for kids), but a romanticized tale for kid-like adults. Miyazaki fans and people who love old planes will certainly enjoy it.
Approach: Mildly funny; also, strangely muted and unreal.
Small children will be clueless about this movie. Has some harmless air combat scenes, and a nasty fistfight. There is a mystical scene about the nature of death which could prompt some discussion about the way people wonder about death and the hereafter. No nudity or sex, but in a fit of nerves, Fiona suddenly strips to her underwear to go swimming in one scene. Has a few mild curses, and a lazy, antisocial pig who sleeps, drinks, smokes, flirts, litters, and runs from the law.
Review by C. J. Scott
The reviewer above missed some of the rich atmosphere of the film. The story takes place during the rise of Fascism and the law Porco "runs from" are Mussolini's secret police. An early scene set against the backdrop of a fascist parade is a masterpiece of subtlety (Look for the attitudes of the people wearing green and blue fascist armbands). The real "bad guy" in the film is the approaching shadow of oppression that will lead to World War Two.
Porco is the last "knight of the air," and this adventure is the last gasp of true chivalry.
The reviewer also neglected to mention that, until Ghibli's Princess Mononoke broke ALL Japan's box office records, Porco Rosso was the all-time highest-grossing anime film. I can see why. Porco Rosso is a delightful fantasy adventure that hangs together just fine and left me wanting more.
The only frustration is that Miyazaki never tells us just HOW Porco became a pig in the first place. We have only his cryptic line "The good guys always die."
Not quite, Porco. Not quite.
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