Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mia and the Migou (2008) (aka Mia and the Magoo aka Mia and the Migoo)

This is a beautifully animated movie that has a great two thirds and then kind of slides off the rails in the last third. Well not so much goes off the rails but becomes overly preachy and loses its way. It's a must see for the art and for the things that work...

Wait, I'm getting a head of myself. Let me start over.

Mia is a little girl living all by herself in an unnamed country. Her mother is gone. Her father is working far away helping to build a resort in a haunted forest. When something happens. Mia feels an urge to go see him and heads off with three lucky charms to find her father. Along the way she meets a variety of people and the Migou, a group of earth spirits who guard a magical tree at the center of the forest. She also runs into a boy named Aldrin and his dad, who is a developer with all his money tied into the resort plan.

Beautifully animated film looks like a painting come to life. Its a visually stunning film that I've run on Canadian DVD a couple of times just to watch the images. The film looks like no other feature film out there. Its truly amazing. I would suggest looking for the trailers but even they don't do the film justice since they don't capture the full scope of the beauty of the film.

The story is full of great characters. They are for the most part real people. They behave like real people, with Aldrin's dad doing some very nasty things when he feel his future is threatened. (I should also mention there is a few choice words used). And of course there are the Migou, a fun bunch of creatures who will make you laugh and touch your heart and believe in magic.

The story is for much of its running time a real joy. Its the sort of thing that will make you want to curl up in front of the screen and lose yourself in the proceedings. For most of the running time things happen because that's they way they have to happen; in other words the film is hitting its marks perfectly and flawlessly, basically reducing the viewer to a ball of mush going "oh wow".

Unfortunately in the final third the film begins to slide and go sideways. The story, which for most of its running time was perfectly told, suddenly feels forced. The eco message that has been running quietly through the the film has been forced to the front with very mixed results. Yes, this allows for some stunning set pieces, but characters and plot suddenly stop moving naturally. We can feel the hand of the filmmakers moving them around and the film clinks along until it stops. Several of the characters, Aldrin for example, ultimately are seen to have little purpose other than to act as an audience surrogate. What was for much of the running time one of the great viewing experiences of the year suddenly is diminished.

Frankly, the end of the film leaves me feeling disappointed...

...and yet I recommend the film whole heartily.

I know its weird, but you have to understand the problems with the film don't kill it, they simply make a truly great film into a solidly good film. Its a matter of degrees. Had the first hour of the film not been as wonderful as it is (and its good enough to recommend the film on the strength of it alone), this would have been very good one start to finish, but the film starts off so strong that the clunkiness of the last half hour can't help but disappoint you and wish it had the strength to do the distance.

Trust me you do want to see this. Its worth the effort to see it, especially if you're a fan of the art of animation.

Currently out on (I believe) Canadian DVD in French. The film is also playing here and there in theaters (the NYICFF just played it for two weekends as part of their on going film screenings)

While I think the film is perfect for little kids, especially if they can hand a bit of scary violence, you may want to wait until you can get an English dubbed copy if your kids can't do subtitles. I believe the print used by the NYICFF was dubbed into English.

8/4/12 ADDENDUM- The film is being released on to American DVD on August 7th in English.  Also the spelling of the Magoo changes depending upon which translation you have from Migou to Migoo, to Magoo

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