Blu-ray Review: My Neighbors The Yamadas

When the words Disney animation is mentioned, odds are you have a style in your head for character design. That looks like a Disney film! You can draw a line from Snow White to Frozen. The same is true with Pixar films although the designs have altered a bit as CGI technology improves. Japan’s Studio Ghibli has an artistic approach found through the work of co-founder and director Hayao Miyazaki, but there are exceptions to that image. Fellow co-founder and director Isao Takahata broke from the look with My Neighbors The Yamaadas.

The Yamada family is somewhat normal. Dad (Twin Peaks: The Return‘s James Belushi) is a frustrated dad who tries to act in charge. Mom (Superstar‘s Molly Shannon) keeps running in circles. The son (Spy Kids‘ Daryl Sabara) acts smarter than his folks. The daughter (The Loud House‘s Liliana Mumy) isn’t sure what to make of it all. The grandmother (The Simpsons‘s Tress MacNeille) does her best to be in charge. The family was first found in Hisaichi Ishii manga Nono-chan. The movie adapts many of the short adventures found in the pages. The family drives away from the mall and argues to the point that the father wishes the others could be as quiet as their daughter. But there’s a reason he can’t hear her, she’s still on a mall bench. The family freaks out fearing she’s been kidnapped. Later the mother freaks out when a friend is going to make an unexpected visit. However the quick clean up goes to the next level.

Director Takahata doesn’t try to adapt the Yamadas to the Studio Ghibli character sheets. They resemble the family found in the graphic novels instead of the parents and kids in Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. The backgrounds are a bit incomplete. Visually the movie resembles the Hanna-Barbera’s Wait Till Your Father Gets Home although the Yamadas don’t get visits from Monty Hall, Don Knots, Jonathan Winters and Casey Kasem. The change up in the style so the images look they are pages in motion allows the animators to go wild in getting inside the Yamadas that’s better than guest stars.

The kids are allowed to let their imaginations go wild. When one imagines his parents getting married, he embraces the image of mom and dad uniting to form a two-person Bobsled team with the icy track transforming into the icing of a wedding cake racing to the top layer during the ceremony. The sled expands out to become a sailboat dealing with the storms and winds of their future life. They expand out the family with a visit to the cabbage patch, capturing a floating peach and cutting open a magical bamboo shoot. All the while the grandmother describes so much about relationships and what drives families apart. Her advice and observations make sense so it’s not the usual comedy.

The independent design of My Neighbors The Yamadas allows a glimpse into their family life without confusing audiences that this is a fantastical tale like other Studio Ghibli movies. The fantasy elements all connect back to the reality and adventures of family life. Takahata being able to maintain Yamada’s creative core allows the film to flourish in its own artistry.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the ink and water color feel of the Yamadas world. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 versions of both the original Japanese cast and the English cast. There’s a 5.1 mix of the French dub. The levels bring out James Belushi’s frustration as the dad. The subtitles are in English and French.

DVD with movie and some bonus features.

Feature Length Storyboards is the rough of the movie with the final audio mix.

Behind the Microphone (5:36) has Belushi reflect how the vignettes and the humor takes him back to his sketch comedy days. There’s an interesting moment when they run him and Molly Shannon’s actions during the remote control duel to show even recording apart, they had the same method to make the noise.

Original Theatrical Trailers (13:46) starts out extra raw with pencil sketches to give a sense that this will be visually different from a Studio Ghibli film.

TV Spots (2:32) talks about the family being super lazy.

8-page Booklet with Producer’s and Director’s Statements.

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present My Neighbors The Yamadas. Directed by: Isao Takahata. Screenplay by: Isao Takahata. Starring: James Belushi, Molly Shannon, Daryl Sabara, Liliana Mumy, Tress MacNeille and David Ogden Stiers. Rated: PG. Running Time: 104 minutes. Released: January 16, 2018.

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