Porco Rosso – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Writer-Director:

Hayao Miyazaki

Cast (English Language):

Michael Keaton……….Porco Rosso
Cary Elwes……….Donald Curtis
Susan Egan……….Gina
Kimberly Williams-Paisley……….Fio Piccolo
David Ogden Stiers……….Grandpa Piccolo
Brad Garrett……….Mamma Aiuto Boss

Walt Disney Home Entertainment Presents a Studio Ghibli Film. Produced by Toshio Suzuki. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated PG (for violence and some mild language)


The Movie

In the Adriatic the climate is tropical and the seas are cool and invigorating. The women are smooth and silky; the guys are oafish and coarse, save for one. His name is Porco Rosso. Actually, Mr. Rosso has the face of a pig; but there was a time when he was a valiant World War I flying ace.

During a fierce aerial dogfight Porco Rosso survived while his fellow pilots went to that great airfield in the sky. As a result, a mysterious spell transformed his facial features into that of a swine. But life goes on.

At the beginning of Porco Rosso, the fifth feature film by legendary maestro Hayao Miyazaki, Rosso is sun bathing outside his little hideaway. Following the Great War Porco has worked as a bounty hunter, apprehending sky pirates and other deviants. When he receives an urgent message about a group of pirates looting a seagoing vessel, Porco decides to take action. Typically in motion pictures you see the hero act frenetically trying to save the day. Porco has a different approach. He goes through a pilot checklist before lifting off. To me this is a refreshing change of pace. To see a hero who ponders his actions instead of going off half-cocked is a smart idea. So smart that Hollywood should be copying this idea. (Hell, they copy everything else.)

Porco Rosso isn’t your usual hero. He’s a pig-faced man that embodies Humphrey Bogart and has the voice of Michael Keaton. He drinks, he smokes, and he’s a heartbreaker – hey pigs need love to. What kind of kid movie is this? Five films after his first feature, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki switches gears. The idea is that Porco Rosso is intended for adult audiences.

Standing firm and saving the day, Porco becomes the annoyance of the Mamma Aiuto pirate gang. So much so they hire Donald Curtis, a rival pilot/screenwriter/actor/Texas boy. After a brief clash, Porco retreats to Milan to repair his plane. Under the guidance of Mr. Piccolo his seventeen-year-old granddaughter, Fio, overhauls Porco’s plane. While reconstructing the plane Fio develops a schoolgirl-like crush for Porco. It’s sweet and all, but there is only one girl for Porco. Her name’s Gina, a hotel lounge singer.

But Porco isn’t the only one with affections for beautiful Gina. She has also gained the attention of Curtis.

This sets up a dazzling finale filled with aerial maneuvers and hand-to-hand combat.

Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso never fails to disappoint. Just like his first feature Miyazaki holds nothing back. The animation is breathtaking and the dogfights are extraordinary. The English cast is also great. Michael Keaton gives Porco that kind of gravelly voice a bounty hunter should have in his arsenal. Cary Elwes, an Englishman no less, is passable as a Texas flyboy. Susan Egan, a newcomer, to me at least, is a breath of fresh air as a French-singing lounge artist. (Hmmm…a female French singer in a Japanese animated film with English voice acting to boot. Don’t see that everyday.)

The supporting players were also excellent choices. Grandpa Piccolo has a great relationship with Porco, always warning Porco the consequences if he ever dated his granddaughter. Then there’s the dimwitted pirate boss, who bears a strange resemblance to Bluto from the Popeye cartoons.

The animation + the action and adventure + the voice talent makes this one thrill ride you do not want to miss.


The DVD

THE VIDEO

Originally released theatrically in 1992, the video transfer for Porco Rosso looks nice. All the colors are brilliant, especially the reds and blues. Still, the video is a little grainy, but not too bad. The film is presented in widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions.

THE AUDIO

This DVD has great 2.0 Dolby Stereo Sound. In my review for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind I said it would have been nice to have a 5.1 option. Sadly, this DVD suffers the same fate. But the 2.0 sound is enough to suffice. That is, unless, you are a die-hard audio connoisseur. In addition to the English dub and French dub versions of the film, you can listen to the original Japanese recording. There are also English subtitles and captions for the hearing impaired.

SPECIAL FEATURES

The second wave of Studio Ghibli films takes a page from the first releases. While featurettes and trailers are located on the first disc, the second disc includes the complete storyboards for the film.

Behind the Microphone follows the same format as all the previous “Behind the Microphone” segments. For seven minutes the English language cast feed the viewers small sound bites. Each did their part for this little fluff package, but Susan Egan was the surprise for me. She was the only actor I had never heard before seeing Porco: The Other White Meat.

The only other featurette on the disc is an Interview with Producer Toshio Suzuki. Not much of an interview really. It’s three-freaking-minutes long for crying out loud. It is in Japanese with English subtitles throughout. The only thing I got out of the interview was the idea that Porco Rosso was a film aimed for adults. (NOTE: This interview was originally broadcast on Nippon Television on August 8, 1992.)

Rounding out the features for disc one are a bunch of Original Japanese Trailers, TV Spots, and Sneak Peeks. The sneak peeks include the releases of: Bambi: Platinum Edition, The Incredibles, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and a montage for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Porco Rosso, and The Cat Returns.

The only extra on Disc #2 are the original storyboards. For animation students or artists this is an interesting feature. It allows the viewer to see the entire film as a gigantic storyboard. It has both the Japanese language track and the English track.

THE INSIDE PULSE

This is a fun, rip-roaring adventure. The cool characters and refreshing storyline make this a movie you want to watch over and over again. I guess it pays to have a pig-faced guy as your protagonist. Hey, if it worked for Porco then it can work for Orlando Bloom.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Porco Rosso
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

10
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

4.5
REPLAY VALUE

10
OVERALL
10
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

Up next: The Studio Ghibli Experience Part 3 – That Darn Cat!

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