So, that thing he’s swinging at the policeman … *facepalm* This is one of those movies that just leaves you shaking your head. It’s not ridiculous enough to be genuinely funny, and it’s far too ridiculous to be taken seriously. It’s not endearing enough to be genuinely interesting. It’s too bizarre to make any meaningful statements about anything whatsoever, and yet it’s not quirky enough to be fascinating in any respect. In fact, I don’t even know what this movie is about — the closer you get to the end of the film, the more and more ambiguous the message becomes. And let’s face it, the whole film is riddled with anatomically correct cartoon raccoons whose “raccoon pouches” expand to enormous sizes and are used in varying ways throughout the film as weapons, parachutes, blankets, and all manner of other freakish accoutrements.
I cannot figure out how the *absolute genius* behind Grave of the Fireflies and Only Yesterday somehow ended up also thinking Pom Poko would be a good idea. Seriously, Takahata? The music isn’t helping, either. And in the English dubbed version, the main raccoon character is voiced by (drumroll) Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Bahaha.
The only way I can justify this at all is to assume that there is some vast cultural lore (raccoon fairy tales and mythology and whatnot) that would make this film palatable to Japanese audiences. But at least in my opinion, it doesn’t translate at any level to a Western viewer, even though you’d think many of the themes (environmental preservation, modern society, etc.) would resonate quite easily. And at a full two hours in length, the strangeness of the documentary/crazy cartoon style combined with the dragging, boring plotline and the utter inability to say anything worthwhile, make Pom Poko a one-time viewing experience that I certainly don’t intend to repeat. As I said, it’s not even funny enough to merit a viewing for the sake of mockery. But, hey, it’s over now, and I can move on to Ghibli’s better work once again!
Pros: Not many. There are a *very few* interesting animated sequences (the monster parade, and the re-forestation at the end). There are a *very few* chuckle-worthy moments. It’s Ghibli, so that’s something.
Cons: I mean, “raccoon pouches.” Raccoon lovemaking, raccoons singing crazy badly-translated folk tunes, raccoons getting hit by cars and dumped in piles of gory dead raccoon carcases, raccoons … well, really, I just don’t like the raccoons. The music is just so-so. The animation is just alright. The story is slow, repetitive, and boring. There’s no substance, no clear message, and really nothing that makes those two hours worthwhile.
Yeah, this gets an abysmal * out of ***** in my book.