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Porco Rosso DVD (Hyb) (2-disc)

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Reviews of this title:

Jon F. Turner1 - Jun 12 2004 JonT1982@AOL.com
Rating: Wonderful!
Even a weak Miyazaki film is still a masterpiece.
Alternately known as THE CRIMSON PIG, this film was the highest grossing movie of 1992 in Japan, beating out Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and Steven Spielberg's HOOK. It's even popular to this day with animation buffs and fans. But I'm going to take an unpopular stand and say that I was actually disappointed by this film. Sure, it's as gorgeously animated as Miyazaki's other films, the story is well told, and Joe Hisaishi's music is fabulous as always -- but PORCO ROSSO ended up being my least favorite Miyazaki movie for various reasons.

For one, it lacks the adventurous spirit and imagination of NAUSICAA, CASTLE IN THE SKY, and PRINCESS MONONOKE and doesn't have even half the whimsy or charm of KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO nor the surrealness of SPIRITED AWAY. Instead, it concentrates on telling an adult-oriented story about a disgraced World War I air pilot turned into a pig because of a tragic accident. A rival pilot is competing with him for the love of a lovely nightclub singer who entertains folks at the Hotel Adriano; later, Porco is befriended by a young airplane engineer whose romantic crush on the pilot slowly makes him look beyond his self-loathing. I don't consider this kind of tale a bad thing; after all, it is important for one to explore more than one genre, but the overall film is not as memorable or magical as Miyazaki's other movies. Part of the problem, too, is the characterizations, which are not as well fleshened out or sympathetic. I'm sorry, but I didn't remember any particular character that I found myself liking by the end of the movie. Perhaps it is because PORCO ROSSO just didn't cut it for me, or maybe I've been spoiled by Miyazaki's other films, but I consider this movie to be the weakest of his works.

That said, it is still a very good film, with much to marvel at (not to mention laugh with); the artistry is breathtaking, especially the ripples of the water. Such effects can be found in KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, and the flying sequences where we see Porco Rosso in his plane are beautifully painted and layed out. If there's anything about PORCO ROSSO that is likely to be remembered after an initial viewing, it must be its visual graphics and music, and not necessarily the story or characters. But despite such quibbles I have, even a weak Miyazaki movie is still worthy of my highest rating, as it's better than a lot of the worst movies out there.

It's about time this movie was finally released in America, too. Ever since 1996, Disney had obtained the rights to this film (along with Miyazaki's other works), but plans of an English dub never surfaced until SPIRITED AWAY won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. Produced by the same folks responsible for its equally fantastic English language track (longtime fan John Lasseter and scripters Donald and Cindy Hewitt), this upcoming English version is set to be yet another first-class dub on a Miyazaki masterpiece from the Mouse House. The voice cast includes Michael Keaton (an odd choice for Porco Rosso, but I'm gonna give the guy some credit), Susan Egan (Gina the barsinger), Cary Elwes (Donald Curtis the rival pilot), Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Fio the young engineer), David Ogden Stiers (Fio's grandfather, Piccolo), and Brad Garrett (not sure what role he's playing). I have yet to see this dub (I previously saw it subtitled at a museum in New York), but given that I've been spoiled by just about every dub Disney has made for Miyazaki's films (even though some folks dislike the dubs for various reasons and would rather watch them in Japanese; but that's their preference), I have no reason to doubt that it will be every bit as excellent as the ones they've done before.

I will update this review when I obtain my copy of the DVD. Meanwhile, however, I have to say, if you're a Miyazaki fan, then go for it. Even if I don't consider this movie one of his best, you're inclined to disagree and, as mentioned, even Miyazaki at his least is still highly recommended; you could definitely do a whole lot worse by missing out on such a less memorable but still fabulous film.

Jon F. Turner - Mar 11 2005 JonT1982@AOL.com
Rating: Wonderful!
Does Miyazaki's pig-headed (pun!) hero get a first-rate DVD? You betcha!
Okay, I have to admit it--PORCO ROSSO isn't my favorite Miyazaki film. But now I have a huge amount of respect for this oddly-themed yet gorgeously rendered tale about a tormented pilot transformed by a mysterious spell. And I owe it, mainly, to this two-disc DVD set by Disney.

I've read complaints about the video quality on this DVD, but after viewing the movie a few times now, all I can say is that claims about edge-enhancement and/or haloing are ultimately unfounded. The transfer is crisp, clean and vibrant. The colors on the oceans stand out, as do Miyazaki's landscapes. But my favorite parts of the transfer are the aerial flights. Here, the quality is at its best, showcasing the splashy, watercolor palette of the skies. As always, Disney remembers to include the Japanese title cards if you select the Japanese language track, so thumbs up to them.

The audio quality on the English, Japanese, and French language tracks is Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, which is a little disappointing for a film of this caliber, but understandable given the age. Purists will be happy to know that the Japanese language track is included, as well as the French language dub featuring Jean Reno as the title character. (I was told that Miyazaki prefers this version over the original.)

But what about the English dub? Well, years ago, Streamline originally made a dub to air on Japan AirLines. Unfortunately, that dub wasn't well-received; hence why Disney decided to give the dub a brand new makeover, which is quite rewarding considering the quality of excellence Disney has displayed in their previous English tracks for Miyazaki's work.

Some folks have quibbled about the casting choices on some of the Miyazaki dubs. I have had no such problems with any of the previous dubs, but I do admit to being skeptical about Michael Keaton as the pig-headed protagonist. Not that I have anything against the actor or any sort of loyalty to the original Japanese seiyuu or Jean Reno, it's just that I had a vision on how Porco Rosso should sound, and Keaton was not it. After sitting through this dub, however, I lay my case to rest--Michael Keaton is an excellent Porco Rosso. His dry, deadpan delivery works in favor of the character's melancholy, cynical nature; but he's not afraid to let loose on the scenes where he's emotional either.

The rest of the cast is equally well-matched. Susan Egan plays the thrice-widowed barsinger Gina with the same amount of sarcasm and vulnerability she gave Lin. She also has a great singing voice--for continuity's sake, Disney had Egan redub Gina's siren song, and boy, is it beautiful. Cary Elwes turns in a gallantly boastful and hilarious performance as Porco's rival pilot, Donald Curtis, whose sole weakness is falling for every woman he sets eyes upon. (He also speaks with a surprisingly convincing Southern accent.) Deep-voiced Brad Garrett voices the ringleader of a macho band of seaside pirates with the kind of pompousity and heavy-weightedness you would expect, but also remembers to showcase the character's secretly soft-hearted nature. Although the banter between his pirate gang isn't as memorable as, say, Phil Hartman's Jiji from KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, or even the guys who played the Dola Pirate Gang from CASTLE IN THE SKY, the chemistry between this band of thugs is undeniably funny. David Ogden Stiers hams it up as Grandpa Piccolo, employing a thick Italian accent which actually makes his character all the more amusing.

It is probably daring to say that in every Disney/Miyazaki dub, there is always one actor standing out from all the others, practically stealing the show. In KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, it was Hartman (Jiji); in PRINCESS MONONOKE, Keith David (Okkoto and the opening voiceover); in SPIRITED AWAY, Suzanne Pleshette (Yubaba and Zeniba); in CASTLE IN THE SKY, Mark Hamill (Muska) tied with Cloris Leachman (Dola)--I'm not sure which performance I like best, they're both good--; in NAUSICAA, Patrick Stewart (Lord Yupa). So, yes, there is one such stand-out in this dub of PORCO ROSSO, and this time it's in the form of Kimberly Williams-Paisley. She does an absolutely bang-up job as the spunky, irrepresible engineer, Fio, who befriends (and becomes smitten with) Porco, and the chemistry between her and Keaton is a delight.

As with KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE and CASTLE IN THE SKY, the script occasionally makes a habit of reinterpreting and/or altering lines for either comprehensibility, or for the sake of a goof joke. Writers Cindy Davis Hewitt and Donald H. Hewitt never overstep their boundaries, though, and remember to retain all the important lines, just like the aforementioned two dubs did (which were both scripted by John Semper, incidentally). All in all, I ended up enjoying the dub more than I thought; it really made the movie a lot better for me IMHO.

The menu setup hasn't changed all that much from the previous wave of Miyazaki's titles, but that's OK. If you've brought the NAUSICAA DVD, then you pretty much know what to expect in terms of extras: the Behind-the-Microphone featurette (which I always like watching; it's a thrill to see the actors at work!), Japanese trailers and TV spots, and the second disc devoted to storyboards. But there IS one noteworthy extra, and that is a 3-minute interview with producer Toshio Suzuki. A longtime colleague of Miyazaki, Suzuki shares his wisdom about this gifted, imaginative animator, and it's a pleasure to hear him talk about this film's assets.

Disney continues their first-rate treatment of Miyazaki's titles with this nicely put together package of what is probably his oddest movie yet--the video quality and audio tracks are top-notch, and, if you're seeing this film for the first time and/or didn't think much of it upon a previous viewing, then this release may change your mind. All in all, a worthy purchase.

Bruce Clark - Jul 28 2005
Rating: Pretty good!
Good title, grainy video, dull colors
Why is the video so grainy in the Disney Region 1 DVD release of Porco Rosso? The Japanese Region 2 Studio Ghibli 2 DVD set has nice, sharp, clear and vibrant video. The colors seem duller in the Disney version. Is this because of the graininess, or the cause of it? The Region 2 DVD has Japanese, English, and French audio tracks, with Japanese, English, and French subtitle tracks. Disney apparently used the Studio Ghibli English subtitle track on the Region 1 release. Unknown, by me, if the R2 DVD English dub track is the old Japan Airlines dub, or not. I don't listen to more then a few seconds of any of the English dubs, since they all sound so awful. Disney kept the audio quality, but they sure messed up with the video quality.