Mia and the Migoo: Miyazaki-Lite


Mia and the Migoo
Directed by Jacques-Rmy Girerd
Opens March 25, IFC Center

A plucky young heroine, a mystical quest to save the environment (and a missing father) from callous corporate-military development, and a band of mysterious monsters who protect a gargantuan Tree of Life: You’d be forgiven for mistaking Mia and the Migoo for the latest animated effort by Hayao Miyazaki. Narratively speaking, Jacques-Rémy Girerd’s fable is a direct descendant of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, detailing the journey of little Mia (voiced by Amanda Misquez) to find her dad, who was buried alive while working at a deteriorating resort construction site on an idyllic hidden lake. Cold, greedy businessman Jekhide (John DiMaggio) directs his fury over the project’s stalling by aiming rocket launchers at the area’s supernatural wonders, much to the chagrin of the tycoon’s estranged son Aldrin (Vincent Agnello). This plot thread, like Mia’s friendship with the jovial, towering spirit-guardian Migoo (Wallace Shawn), is drained of any magic by blunt dialogue and rudimentary conflicts. The film’s character and creature designs are derivatively Miyazakian, though its vibrantly expressionistic color helps give Mia’s hand-drawn visuals (especially of shimmering subterranean foliage) their own distinct identity. Regrettably, both the condemnation of capitalist avarice and violence and the sanctification of nature and youthful innocence are dramatized only in simplistic black-and-white terms.

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I saw this movie in the original French version and agree that the environmental theme is "Miyazakian". But the backgrounds and character designs are certainly not - the painted backgrounds owe more to Cezanne or Van Gogh than Miyazaki's pastoral realism - and the human characters look nothing like anime characters. As for the Migoo monsters, these are much more cartoony than anything I have seen from Miyazaki.


This is a strikingly beautiful film which will appeal to all ages. It's so refreshing to view a film for children/families that's so graphically different than anything else I've seen. And the story holds together. My 6 year old son loved it and couldn't stop talking about how beautiful the film is, something he's never noticed in any film before.


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