Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MIA & THE MIGOO: Jacques-Rémy Girerd's European Film Award animation winner

Was 2009 a so-so year for European animation? I'll guess "yes" based on my response to the animated film that opens this Friday, MIA AND THE MIGOO -- hailed as best animated feature at the 2009 European Film Awards.  If this film was the best anima-tion throughout Europe (even among the best), then '09 was not a banner year. Directed/ co-written by Jacques-Rémy Girerd, the movie is not awful. But "best"?  Whew.

It's colorful, as you can see from the stills below, and M. Girerd's style preference (the filmmaker is shown at right) seems to be old-fashioned, flat stuff that still manages to enchant many of us elders and young children as much as does the pseudo-realism of the motion-capture, heavily CGI -influenced or 3-D brands of animation. And indeed Girerd and his team have come up with some ravishing little set pieces/images like a night-time meteor shower (shown below) and the "tree of life" (at bottom).  So what's not to like about this movie?  For adults, at least: plenty. (TrustMovies kept wishing his grandkids were sitting next to him during the press screening, in order to gauge their enjoyment.)

Mia and the Migoo is certainly a timely bit of animation, pushing all the right buttons and hitting the au courant themes. For adults who will be accompanying the children, these start with the despoiling/
saving of our environment and continue through proper parenting. The kids will enjoy those things that youngsters usually love: going on an adventure/quest and being in quasi-danger.

In this case, little Mia (above, left), who possesses quite the head of hair until she gets it chopped off (and looks more masculine than feminine), has a mom who's dead and a dad gone to earn money on a far-away construction site. In her search for dad she gets involved with the son of a no-good (until he sees the light) developer who's wants to turn a pristine paradise into a new resort. There's a supposed monster (the Migoo of the title, below), who comes in  "group" form, is a nondescript, size-shifting blob and who has got to be one of the least interesting monster/heroes in the history of film (for blobby monsters, I'll take Totoro).

The real culprit here is the uber-clunky screenplay, featuring event and dialog that are obvious, slow and tiresome. But because we're not really seeing the original (we're getting a dubbed-to-English version), it's difficult to say whether the team that put together the new version did a hack job, or that the original itself was this bad. At times, story-wise, the film seems like a typical episode of Dora the Explorer (but with much better animation).

The worst thing about Mia and the Migoo is its offering up magical and easy-fix solutions to the problems of our enviornment and to those of parenting. (Of course, if the former isn't handled -- and fast -- we probably won't have to worry about the latter.)  This film gives these both lip-service and nothing more. 

Mia and the Magoo (running time: 92 minutes) -- from GKIDS Inc., which last year gave us a much better piece of animation The Secret of Kells that also garnered an Oscar nomination -- opens this Friday, March 25, at IFC Center in New York and will expand nationally on Friday, April 22.

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