From the Page to the Screen – Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men Review

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From the Page to the Screen – Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men is a 1937 novella written by John Steinbeck. It is one of his greatest works. It is set during the Great Depression and is about the friendship between two very different men and the struggles they face. The book is very short, but powerful to this day so it received two film adaptations – one in 1939 and another in 1992. I am going to compare both movies to the book so let’s see which one is the more accomplished work.

 

THE 1939 VERSION

The 1939 film was made just two years after the novella’s release. It was really respected back in that day as it was nominated for four Academy Awards and it received good praise from critics. But because it was filmed in black-and-white and was technically pretty weak and because it came out in one of the best years for film ever, it is mostly forgotten nowadays which is a shame as it is a pretty good adaptation, but a very flawed one indeed.

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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PLOT

The film’s storyline follows the book very closely, even too closely according to some. Naturally, I loved how faithful it is and it flows really well too. The film is two hours long which meant that it adapted almost all of the novella’s scenes which is again respectable. No matter how good and well adapted the story here is, it never overcame its hurdle in the form of Curly’s wife as she got too much screen rime and thus robbed us of seeing the more important characters more.

WINNER – BOOK

 

CHARACTERIZATION

The characters here are actually very good. Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. are both very strong as George and Lenny and, as I said above, Curly’s wife is much better and less stereotypical in this story. But most of the other characters weren’t as memorable as they were in the book which again stems from her overwhelming presence.

WINNER – BOOK

 

EMOTION

The dog, Curly’s wife and of course that ending all involved some very emotional scenes here, but they just never could compete with the sheer power of Steinbeck’s descriptions of the emotional state of the characters and those great tragic chapters.

WINNER – BOOK

 

THEMES

As is usual for this category, the film loses and here it is pretty evident as it relies on telling the story faithfully and portraying the characters well, but just never enough on hitting those hard truths about discrimination and the American Dream among others.

WINNER – BOOK

 

TECHNICAL ASPECTS

This is the easiest choice for me. The film was filmed in black-in-white when it obviously needed Technicolor. Add to that very poor cinematography, a weak use of its setting and an overall uninspired look to it and it is clear that Steinbeck’s imagery and descriptions were infinitely better.

WINNER – BOOK

 

BOOK 5: FILM 0

This was a clear victory as the book swept every category. But I have to emphasize that even though it may sound that I am trashing the movie here, that is not the case at all, maybe in that last category only. This is just the case of a competent, good movie that just never reached the greatness of the novel in all of its aspects.

 

 

THE 1992 VERSION

This adaptation was released 53 years after the previous one and it is my favorite of the two for sure. It was directed by Gary Sinise and this film was mostly his own accomplishment as he both starred in it and directed it. The film is pretty much forgotten these days and that is so unfortunate as it should be remembered as the definite cinematic version of this story.

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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PLOT

The story is again very faithfully adapted here, almost scene by scene. I loved how traditional it is and they never modernized it or changed any of the plot points at all. Well, they only changed the ending which is actually done for the better as George leaving the ranch felt more natural and the murder was so intense and tragic the way it was filmed. But even though the ending is better, the rest of the story is just repeated from the book and never improved.

WINNER – BOOK

 

CHARACTERIZATION

Everyone gets their fair share of development this time around and each of the characters was so well brought to the big screen and nobody gets left behind. They are all so good, but not as vividly portrayed as in the book.

WINNER – BOOK

 

EMOTION

The novella is highly emotional for sure. But the movie is even more so. That is because the acting is so great, especially from Gary Sinise, and that ending is so well filmed and just perfect. Lennie’s death is even more tragic here and the flashback in the end was so moving.

WINNER – FILM

 

THEMES

This is the only aspect in this otherwise superb adaptation which is clearly lacking. They only told us this story and filmed it without any themes to it and the dialogue is certainly not memorable or particularly smart.

WINNER – BOOK

 

TECHNICAL ASPECTS

Steinbeck’s writing is very good and his descriptions are also strong. The movie, on the other hand, benefits from a visual representation of it that, although not particularly cinematic, is fueled by awesome scenery and excellent attention to detail in recreating this time period.

WINNER – FILM

 

BOOK 3: FILM 2

Now this one was not a huge victory. Still the book is better and in more important aspects, but there is no denying the greatness of this second adaptation and it is to be admired that it came so late in the game and proved so strong. In the end, both movies are good, but the modern one is the better one by a mile and the novella remains the best and a classic of 20th century literature. But the fact that we got two good movies is a rarity and thus they need to be treasured.

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Of Mice and Men (1992)

Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

Of Mice and Men is a 1992 drama film directed by and starring Gary Sinise with John Malkovich being the other actor. It is such a stupendous adaptation.

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A guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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I am a big fan of the Steinbeck novella and I have to say that I wasn’t too thrilled with the 1939 movie adaptation which was good, but flawed. This one, however, is the definite cinematic version of the novella, at least of what we got so far and I did not expect that as this movie isn’t particularly well known which is a shame.

Let’s talk about the plot. It is very faithful to the source material and it actually doesn’t take any chances with it meaning that it is pretty traditional and old-fashioned in its approach which I naturally loved. I loved that the beginning was more extended and that we actually got to see how they ended up in that forest and I actually preferred the ending here than in the book because it is much more natural and realistic, at least in terms of George’s character. And it is very moving. All of the other plot points are basically the same as they were in the novella.

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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The characters are excellent. I loved George and Lennie here and they were so well portrayed and their friendship was definitely felt. Highly moving stuff and thus the ending was all the more powerful and just beyond heartbreaking. I really liked Slim as the only good man out of the ranch guys and Candy and Curly were both very well realized. The same can be said for Carlson and Crooks, but Curly’s wife is as weak of a female character as in the source material.

The acting is powerful in this Of Mice and Men. I have to say that I am not a fan of John Malkovich at all, but he was definitely good here and most of his choices paid off as this is how you basically portray a special needs person. All of the other actors also did a very good job, but in my opinion the highlight is Gary Sinise who is absolutely terrific as George, highly believable and he conveyed emotion beautifully.

My major problem with this movie is that somehow it did not feel cinematic enough, at least it did not feel that way for me personally. Certainly better done, much better, than in the previous version, but still I would have liked a more epic, sprawling approach.

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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But otherwise this is technically such a polished feature and we got here superb cinematography. Some of the imagery such as the forest and the fields was fantastic and the film really transports you to the 1930s time period thanks to terrific attention to detail and some gorgeous shots. I liked the dialogue and although the film was never as clever as the source material, at least these actors talked like real people from the thirties which I appreciated strongly. The score wasn’t that great and some choices were odd, but I loved how the film looked and how it stayed away from any modern or more violent approach. Gary Sinise did an amazing job in the directorial chair and as an actor and he propelled the film to great heights for sure.

The 1992 cinematic adaptation of Of Mice and Men is much better than the 1939 version thanks to a more faithful approach, excellent cinematography and such a great, different ending which I actually preferred over the novella one. Certainly it isn’t too sophisticated or cinematic, but Gary Sinise propelled this film to great heights as his performance in both acting and directorial chair is respectable and the film is pleasantly traditional in its approach.

My Rating – 4.5

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The Cactus Kid (1930)

The Cactus Kid ReviewThe Cactus Kid Review

The Cactus Kid is a 1930 Mickey Mouse cartoon. It is a solid entry.

This is one of those western Mickey shorts in the vein of ‘The Gallopin’ Gaucho’. The Mexican setting is so well conveyed here and with such a good score and I just loved that chase sequence as it is accompanied by one of the best classical compositions and the action is so well incorporated into the musical cues.

However, this short never amounts to much. It certainly should have been great as both the setting and the premise demanded but the end results are not so great. Despite a good first act and excellent third act, the film is otherwise not as exciting as that middle section was quite lacking. And the lip-syncing continues to be the problem for these early sound pictures.

The Cactus Kid is problematic in the middle section, but with an excellent last chase accompanied by great music.

My Rating – 3.7

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Girls Trip (2017)

Girls Trip Movie Review

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Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip is a 2017 comedy film starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith. It is a solid film, but not as great as everybody says it is.

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That’s some white boy shit right there

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Girls Trip Movie Review

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The major problem with this film is the plot. I like my comedies to either have no plot at all or to have a meaningful, good plot and this one has such an archaic, cliched storyline with Regina Hall’s character where she stays married to a cheater just because they are a famous couple and eventually backs away from it. A very cliched story that ties all of the movie together but is so dull that it hurt it tremendously.

Girls Trip is funny, quite funny at times. I liked the movie the most when the girls were just having fun and being crazy. Those were the best parts and I wish the whole film was like that. They did not need all of that relationship drama in there. And this crew of women is so strong and they are such wonderful friends mostly because of the cast which has an infectious dynamic between each other and great charisma and likability factor.

Let’s talk about all of the four girls. There are some fine supporting players in here such as Kate Walsh who is funny, but this is mostly about just these four women which is great. I had not recognized Jada Pinkett Smith as Lisa is not like her usual sexy character, but still she remains an annoying actress, at least to me. And she is the most boring part of this whole film.

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Girls Trip Movie Review

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Queen Latifah is excellent in the role as Sasha is quite likable and I loved her relationship with Regina Hall’s Ryan. As I said above, I really did not care for Ryan’s story whatsoever. But I could not deny that she gave a terrific, very strong performance in a not so great role.

I do agree with most critics and fans that Tiffany Haddish did absolutely steal the show here. She truly is a breakout star of 2017 as the actress who was basically unknown before but is now suddenly in the comedy spotlight. Dina is a typically over-the-top and sexually charged comic relief, but she is so great that she elevated the material. And her many funny lines were the highlights in terms of the humor here.

Girls Trip is a movie that is two hours a long and I just had a big problem with that. Comedies aren’t supposed to be longer than an hour and a half and this one is certainly overlong and the entire third act was just so sappy and unfortunately very archaic, it felt too much like a 2000s romantic comedy and it was overly triumphant. It should have ended before and much stronger.

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Girls Trip Movie Review

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Another problem here is that the humor is not as great as I thought it would be. Its R-rated style sometimes felt unnecessary as those scenes with the most profanity were usually too forced in their execution (the pee scene is absolutely ridiculous). But the grapefruit scene is pretty funny and some facial expressions and lines of dialogue definitely were excellent, mostly coming from Haddish’s character. But still this isn’t all that better than ‘Rough Night’ which remains a very underrated comedy flick which I honestly may even prefer over this one.

Girls Trip can be really funny, I loved the dynamic between its talented cast and Tiffany Haddish definitely is the highlight here in a true breakout role for her. Whenever the film relied on the girls’ friendship and their various shenanigans, it was very good. However, it also included that very unfortunate celebrity cheating storyline and no matter how strong Regina Hall’s performance is, she just couldn’t save this story from being so dated and cliched. And the third act is just too sappy. All in all, it is a solid flick, but not all that better than very underrated ‘Rough Night’.

My Rating – 3.5

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I Wanna Be a Sailor (1937)

I Wanna Be a Sailor ReviewI Wanna Be a Sailor Review

I Wanna Be a Sailor is a 1937 animated short film from the Merry Melodies series. It is a childhood favorite.

Yes, this film proved to be a highly nostalgic experience for me as it is one of the rare Merry Melodies from this period which I vividly remember seeing as a kid. I loved it then and I still really like it and it is actually one of the better entries so far. So it is about a young parrot who wants to be a sailor just like his dad was, but the mother objects to that as she holds a grudge toward her no-good husband.

The film is not as great in its second half as it is in the first half as it relies so strongly on the mother parrot. Certainly the kid is fine and that duck friend of his is very memorable with his brutal line “Sissy!” being absolutely hilarious. But this is the mother’s show as she has some great one-liners here and the highlight was the scene in which she comes to her son’s mother and stops running for a moment in order to sing. That was hilarious. I liked the score and the character design, but the animation was not particularly smooth.

I Wanna Be a Sailor is a nostalgic film for me which isn’t perfect, but is good enough with memorable characters and excellent humor.

My Rating – 4

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Dersu Uzala (1975)

Dersu Uzala Movie Review

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Dersu Uzala Movie Review

Dersu Uzala is a 1975 Soviet-Japanese adventure biopic directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is a long, but pretty good film.

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How can man live in a box?

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Dersu Uzala Movie Review

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This is a co-production between Russia and Japan and I liked seeing these two great countries join forces and create this epic. Akira Kurosawa is a great director and he directed this film so well. His direction and the titular Asian character bring the Asian flavor to the film which revolves in Russian Far East with Russian actors. I really liked that mix.

The friendship that develops between a Russian man and this native is heartwarming and very strong. Their explorations of the harsh region are so great and it was very interesting seeing the various different conditions from fog to snow. This is very much a film about nature and the power of it and of course I admire movies that promote that.

The two main characters are very good and I really loved their friendship. The actors also gave such strong performances. But other characters are quite forgettable. The film deals with Dersu’s aging very well and in terms of the themes, it is a familiar, but well realized film.

Dersu Uzala looks absolutely magnificent. It sounds great thanks to excellent score and superb sound design, but the various natural landscapes are beautiful to witness and the film relies heavily on its very harsh and alienated atmosphere and setting to great effect. It is an old tale of man versus nature but well crafted nonetheless.

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Dersu Uzala Movie Review

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The problem with Dersu Uzala is naturally its running time which is just way too long. Two hours would have been enough and I would cut those thirty minutes from it. Sometimes the film was slow and uninvolving and although it is a slow-burn, it still would have hugely benefited from stronger pacing and a shorter runtime. It got the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and I don’t mind its win as it is actually one of the better winners from the seventies.

Dersu Uzala is certainly overlong and it is quite a familiar tale, but well told with a strong friendship between its main characters, excellent direction and great atmosphere thanks to superb sound and wonderful cinematography. It is slow, but moving and it utilizes its interesting setting so well.

My Rating – 4

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Dog Daze (1937)

Dog Daze ReviewDog Daze Review

Dog Daze is a 1937 animated short film from the Merry Melodies series. It is a forgettable flick.

The film follows the hijinks that ensue on a dog show with various breeds and acts. I definitely found this short enjoyable because I am a dog person. I liked seeing all the various dogs and they were well animated. The recital is one of the highlights as well as the fleas getting drunk on alcohol.

But I do not know why the fleas have wings here. That is a major flaw in their design as they do not look like that at all. But otherwise the dog designs are pretty good. The film is solid, but not one of the memorable Merry Melodies mainly because it wasn’t funny and it is lacking in action and gags. Plus the plot is familiar.

Dog Daze is a forgettable Merry Melody with some good animation and scenes, but mostly a typical plot and a lack of fun gags.

My Rating – 3.4

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Doctor Who Season 8 (1971)

Doctor Who Season 8 Review

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Doctor Who Season 8 Review

The eighth season of Doctor Who is another strong season which is on par with the previous season in terms of quality.

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I am usually referred to as the Master.

Oh? Is that so?

Universally

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Doctor Who Season 8 Review

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In Terror of the Autons we get acquainted with the Master for the very first time. He appears in every single serial of this season which was a bit too much and he is better off in smaller usages. I love his character as he is the first true villain of the show. He is smart and gentlemanly just like the Doctor which makes their squaring off all the more fun. This story underutilizes the Autons themselves, but the Master is great in his first role and this is such an entertaining serial.

The Mind of Evil is a solid serial which again makes use of the Master who is again memorably menacing and amusing. However, this serial not great owing to its underutilized, weakly paced and ultimately not as well crafted or engaging story.

The Claws of Axos is the weakest serial here. It has an intriguing premise and is overall not bad and is passable, but this is one of those dated Doctor Who stories which rely on horror on special effects a bit too much and to campy results.

Colony in Space is quite good. Certainly we’ve seen these types of political storylines before, but this is a solidly executed story about colonists in space and I particularly liked the dialogue and the role of the Doctor here.

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Doctor Who Season 8 Review

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The Daemons definitely got campy and way too silly in its last two episodes but the ending is very sweet and endearing and all of the previous episodes are absolute winners in my book owing to such a well crafted, detailed storyline with a great mystery to it so well executed and that witch lady was certainly very memorable and well developed.

Overall, this eighth season of Doctor Who has its weaker stories, but all of its serials are at least okay with the two of them being great. The Doctor is once again great and the Master is an awesome, unforgettable and highly amusing villain. Roger Delgado and John Pertwee’s performances are great and they play off each other so well and create a terrific dynamic.

Worst Serial: The Claws of Axos

Best Serials: Terror of the Autons and The Daemons.

Worst Episodes: The Claws of Axos Episode One, The Claws of Axos Episode Two and The Daemons Episode Four.

Best Episodes: Terror of the Autons Episode One, Terror of the Autons Episode Four, The Daemons Episode One and The Daemons Episode Two.

My Rating – 3.9

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Harvey (1950)

Harvey Movie Review

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Harvey Movie Review

Harvey is a 1950 comedy film starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull. It is a very strong, but ultimately flawed comedy flick.

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Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor,

and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it

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Harvey Movie Review

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Harvey is about Elwood, a man who goes everywhere with his imaginary friend who is a giant white rabbit. Upon many embarrassments that he has brought to the family, his sister finally decides to put him in a sanatorium. But hilarity ensues when the doctors assume she is the crazy one and she ends up in the hospital herself…

This is for better and for worse a situational comedy. And although the situations are highly improbable, this is still one of the better examples of this type of comedy with a particularly strong use of its various hijinks and crazy scenarios. The film is definitely very funny and the sister is easily the most hilarious character here. They managed to treat such a serious issue very comically and whether it is Elwood talking to his “friend” or Veta being paranoid and losing it, you are bound to get a great laugh with these funny, crazy people.

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Harvey Movie Review

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There is only one problem, a major problem, I have with Harvey and that is its second half or mostly just the third act. It is so problematic and inferior to the rest of the picture that it brings the whole movie down to a four-star film for me. The once immensely funny affair turns dead serious which I did not like. I liked how it has a heartwarming ending and how respectfully it treats its subject and characters, but it just lost its steam almost entirely, it felt long and slow and there was too much drama and just not enough humor.

This is one of James Stewart’s most different and unique roles and he did such a good job as usual with him having been such a greatly talented guy. I liked his character and he was great, but I thought it was a missed opportunity that we didn’t see his projection of the rabbit at least in its very end. I liked the doctors and that relationship between one doctor and a nurse was very well established. Myrtle Mae is also pretty good.

But this is almost entirely Josephine Hull’s show. The character is amazing and so complex as she believes and does not believe in the rabbit at the same time. But Hull gave a purely brilliant comedic performance and the film and this character wouldn’t work without her phenomenal performance. She managed to give a terrific performance against all odds (an extremely difficult role) and thus her Oscar win is highly deserved. For once, the Academy managed to honor a comedic performance. Thank God.

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Harvey Movie Review

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Harvey is not all that well directed and shot as it is based on a play and it shows. But the technical aspects weren’t needed for this story and are competent enough. The characters are so vivid, the humor is exceptional and the dialogue is witty that the film successfully transcended its one big flaw.

Harvey is a very strong comedy, but not as great as it could have been. That third act is so serious, overly dramatic and slow that the once hilarious film suddenly stopped and lost all of its steam. Yes, the humor is terrific as the film is very funny in its great use of situational comedy and witty dialogue. The characters are memorable and very likable. James Stewart is reliably great here but this is actually Josephine Hull’s show and she absolutely killed it in a very demanding, complex role and indisputably deserved her Oscar in the process.

My Rating – 4

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My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)

My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

My Neighbors the Yamadas is a 1999 anime comedy film directed by Isao Takahata. It is Studio Ghibli’s most underappreciated film.

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My father and mother and grandma and brother all got lost

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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This film is for better and for worse a series of vignettes. That means that it has no story, but just various unconnected segments that tell the tales of the Yamada family through hardships and foolishness. It may seem at first that it is too disconnected, but I honestly found it thematically connected as the film shows the power of family and that the family union can help you stay afloat in this dark and cold world.

Let’s first talk about the characters and then I will touch upon its segments. There are basically only five characters in this movie and those are all the Yamada family members. I love movies with less characters so naturally I really enjoyed this one as well.

Nonoko is their five-year old daughter and although she was less prominent in the second half of the movie, she was wonderful in the first half and so incredibly funny at times. I really liked her and she is such a wonderful kid. Noboru isn’t as likable and is more typical, but still really well developed and his romantic as well as school problems were really well portrayed.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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Takashi works too much to support his family whereas Matsuko is very much just a housewife so in that regard the film is overly archaic in gender roles and family structure. However, they are still both amazing characters. He is relatable for all great workers whereas she is pretty funny as this clumsy and forgetful housewife. The relationship between the two is great as it is such a realistic marriage filled with love and respect but also childish arguing and bickering.

Of course Shige is the highlight. She is the grandmother in the family and, ironically for the oldest member of the family, she is the most energetic and the most lively of the bunch. And needless to say, the funniest. She made me laugh the most with her many funny lines and actions. And the fact that she is the most adult and responsible and that she basically brings the whole family together was a strong statement on how important the elderly can be. Loved it.

As for its segments, the beginning was too silly and not my favorite. The family losing Nonoko in the shopping mall is easily one of the strongest segments here as it shows how irresponsible parents can be but in a very lightweight manner. Their scenes in the car are great, but Nonoko’s scene with that little, also lost, boy takes the cake as the funniest and most wonderful for sure. She thinks the family is lost and not her and thus they so amusingly and realistically show us the childlike innocence and cluelessness.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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The next scene shows how the entire family is unorganized and how everybody wants to do their own thing and nobody wants to do the cleaning. Again another truthful segment. The next segment is all about the Yamada marriage and how chaotic it is. The standout scene is the remote sequence as it was hilarious seeing the two fight over TV. A typically silly anime humor is used here to elevate the material superbly.

The male bonding is also pretty solid as a story about the age gap and the distant relationship between fathers and sons. The next two segments focus on Takashi being a great father model but nobody notices that. The next two segments (umbrella and sushi) aren’t as essential but the breakfast scene is hilarious as always having the same meal is unfortunately very relatable to me personally.

Ginger Morning is so funny! It basically showcases the forgetful nature of all five of the Yamadas to a hilarious effect. A great use of situational comedy. The next two segments are about Noboru (school and romance) and although quite well executed, they are not my favorites as he is my least favorite character in the film.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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The next couple of vignettes center around wonderful Shige and the highlight is the scene in which she takes back the ball that went over the fence to some kids and rewards them with another ball but the two boys eventually come asking for that ball. I laughed out loud here. Such a funny scene. And of course the grandma taking the action against bikers into her own hand was a great subversive scene where the woman takes action instead of the father figure.

The business speech of Takashi’s was very good and of course the ending is so great as it utilizes the power of Que Sera, Sera. I love how Ghibli once again used one of my favorite songs in their movie after Take Me Home, Country Roads in ‘Whisper of the Heart’.

My Neighbors the Yamadas features a very different animation from the regular highly stylized anime style of their other efforts and thus this makes it unique and singular. It employs computer animation in the creation of watercolor, comic-strip style in its animation and the results are wonderful despite the excessive use of the color white. I loved its fluid and simplistic look and the character design is excellent.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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So My Neighbors the Yamadas is a very uneven film with uneven pacing and quality of the segments which is to be expected from its vignette format. But it is still such a good film that is probably the studio’s most underrated and it was much better to me upon second viewing. It employs a very good score and superb dialogue with many memorable lines. It has no story, but it is observational in message and themes and everyday life thanks to its wonderful slice-of-life storytelling. And the humor is just magnificent and I laughed more than a couple of times. It is another strong work from great Isao Takahata.

My Neighbors the Yamadas is probably the most underappreciated of all Studio Ghibli’s films. Its approach as a series of vignettes instead of a full story definitely led to its uneven quality and pacing, but the film features such a unique watercolor, comic-strip style to it and a superb dialogue and excellent humor with many hilarious lines and situations. The Yamadas are such a wonderful, relatable and endearing family and I’ve spent such a wonderful 100 minutes with them.

My Rating – 4

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