(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from The Tale of Princess Kaguya)
Doug (vo): By popular demand, The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Based on the famous Japanese folk tale that, sadly, I don't really know, so I'm not gonna be able to compare it that much. What I do know, though, is that this is a film that has a totally distinct artistic style that it's all its own. It has this incredible simplicity to its technique, which can often work in its favor, and other times, possibly be a little stale, which is fitting, because the film itself kind of has that feel to it. But before you kill me, let's go ahead and actually look at the story.
Doug (vo): A man cutting bamboo in the forest suddenly comes across a baby inside one of the trees. At first, she looks like royalty, but then she suddenly becomes a real little kid. He takes her home to his wife, and he's totally convinced that this is a princess, or at least, that she's supposed to grow up into a princess. Why else would she look like royalty when she was born? Convinced that her status is going to mean everything, the father does everything he can to try and buy her all the things he thinks she deserves. The mother is not as concerned about her status as much as she just grows up happy. One minute, she's a baby, the next day, she's a little girl, the next, possibly a teenager. They're not sure why this is, but they try everything in their power to not only love her, but also try to get a royal position...which, I'll admit, is a little confusing in this world. They sort of get her educate lessons and get this really nice place to live in, but her parents aren't king or queen, so why would she be a princess? Either way, that doesn't seem to stop them as they go around parading to everybody that she is, in fact, a princess. Soon, she starts getting all this attention and all these suitors start coming in, but, as par for the course, she doesn't really like being a princess, doesn't really like the suitors, and is constantly getting into trouble. As time goes on, she does discover her real origin, and if I say any more, it would kind of give things away. Let's just say, it's definitely more supernatural stuff.
Doug (vo): The best parts of the film are the beginning and the ending. The beginning for the type family connection and how loveable they are working off each other, and the ending for its dreamlike imagery as well as tone with sort of a bittersweet send-off. I dare say it's almost a little too strange in how rushed it is, but it still leaves an interesting feeling. The middle is where it's the toughest to get through. One: We've seen all these cliches before. The princess who doesn't want to be a princess, so she's going to fight back and be rebellious, and all the people are gonna tell her to be this other thing and, yeah, yeah, yeah, seen it, seen it, not too much that's new.
[Many of the film's slow-moving scenes are shown]
Doug (vo): But on top of that, it is just so slow-moving. There are so many moments that drag on and on, I remember thinking to myself, "This should be over in a few minutes. Why are we focusing 10 to 20 minutes on some of these subplots?" For example, she gives a challenge to each of these three suitors that try to win her hand. They're all impossible challenges, but nevertheless, all the suitors try and accommodate anyway. This should only take up, like, five, 10 minutes of the film's time, but I think it goes on for something like 20 or 25. I guess I just didn't understand why these scenes were so important. I mean, I love atmosphere. You see me praise movies like Kiki that have very little going on, but they're just so likeable and they have such a world to explore that I absolutely love it. With this one, though, maybe because the style is so simple, you don't really feel like you can get sucked in as much, at least, not enough if you're going to work with a very loose story.
[An emotional scene in the movie is shown]
Doug (vo): The style itself, I'm gonna be very honest, I was kind of expecting a little bit more with. For example, there's a scene where she really gets her feelings hurt and she runs out of the palace, and all of a sudden, everything goes really sketchy, and it just looks unbelievable. This is inspired, an animation style that actually works around the emotions of the character. Holy smokes! This is ingenious! Maybe the more confident she feels, the more together and straight the lines will be, or the more she's falling apart, the more the animation will look more rugged and sketchy and, yeah, holy smokes. This is almost like a totally new way to do animation, it could actually revolutionize some things. But that scene where she runs out is literally only one scene, and it's at the most a minute long. Why couldn't they do that throughout the majority of the film? I mean, I know it probably would've cost a little bit more money, but it's already so simple anyway. Why not go all the way with it? But for the most part, it just sort of stays in this one style and that's it. What a shame, what a missed opportunity.
Final thought Edit
Doug (vo): So did I dislike the film? I don't know if I can say that. I mean, it was still so engaging to watch, and, yeah, it was slow-moving, but I still wanted to know where it was going. There are still a lot of scenes that have a lot of imagination and sort of play with tone a little bit, almost like something out of a dream. But I don't know if I can get behind it like a lot of other Studio Ghibli's works. I think I saw more possibility that was tapped upon than fully explored, which isn't totally bad. I mean, I'm glad something new was done here, I just wish it could've gone all the way with it. So, again, kind of a mixed review, but I would still lean towards that it is worth checking out because, hey, it is still great artistry. And it is still a story that I wanted to know by the end what was going to happen. Take that for what you will and decide for yourself.
[A scene showing the main character looking at a beautiful scenery is shown]