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4.6 out of 5 stars
Porco Rosso
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223 of 234 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2004
Format: DVD
From a fan and student of Miyazaki-san:
"Porco Rosso" is the master's most autobiographical work, for once he was not trying to impart any moral or environmental lessons to children or young girls or the Japanese society, as most of his other works did---but a heartfelt fantasy projection of himself (being an independent agent neither belonging to your typical Japanese Anime Industry or the Hollywood/Disney American Culture juggernaut, as symbolized by the brash American Pilot-Fighter, Curtis).
It's also a celebration of his fellow frustrated romantic and idealistic adults (many tired Japanese salary men and animators) who have not completely surrendered their youthful dreams to the MAN/military industry.
Set in Post WWI Europe, where Fascism was on the rise, the Continental world it captured was a last breath of fantastic and natural freedom before a long darkness set in...
The genius stroke here is by turning the protagonist into a PIG, a whimsical yet literal mockery on those old-fashioned/outdated all-male/brotherhood chauvinist melodramatic adventure genre it so lovingly appropriates, and a gentle dig on "mankind" in general, all in good and slightly surreal fun.
In this story, Miyazaki made fun (instead of preaching to) of his society, himself and his prominent role in it.
Yet, behind all the cartoony surface lies the touching elegiac sadness of a lost past and a yearning hope (placed esp. on a young female) for a better future, straight from Miyazaki-san's cynical/sentimental heart.
Presented as a light-hearted lark only makes its immersing nostalgia and lyricism all the more spontaneously enchanting
and unexpectedly affecting. A magical paradox of his great art.
"Porco Rosso" is the "Casablanca" of cartoons with a touch of Roald Dahl, and the most under-rated and overlooked of Miyazaki's fabulous work.
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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2004
Format: DVD
I am a fanatic for the works of Miyazaki, and this is my favorite among his works. There is no heavy-handed message other than his dislike of Fascism; there are no cute or bizarre animals other than the hero, and cute is just not the word for him; there are adventure, derring-do, light-hearted fight scenes, strong female figures, comic villains, romance, great achievements, a touch of magic, and the typically fanatical Miyazaki attention to detail. This is an atypical light adventure film and is suitable for children from 9 to 99. It's charming, fun, and simply wonderful. Please, buy it.

I can only hope that Amazon will package this in a 3-pack with Nausicaa in the Valley of Wind and My Neighbor Totoro, all due (actually LONG overdue) for simultaneous release. (The official date of release is now Feb. 22, and it will be released with Nausicaa and The Cat Returns; Totoro is not currently scheduled. This is mistifying, as The Cat Returns is actually a sequel to another Ghibli [but not Miyazaki] film that has never been released in the U.S.)
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2006
Format: DVD
During the first few minutes of "Porco Rosso", I was thinking, 'okay, this is.....different. It's good but I don't think it's exactly gonna be "Spirited Away" or "Naussicaa"'. I should have known better. It IS different, it's not "Spirited Away" or any other Ghibli movie before or since, but it is, in its own bizarre way, just as good. Studio Ghibli seems to be incapable of delivering anything short of true excellence.

The title character is a grumpy bipedal pig who flies a World War I-era airplane in the Mediterranean in the years between the two world wars. Once human, Porco has adopted an air of disinterested apathy to cover his feelings, but he finds himself drawn to a group of people in Italy after his plane is shot down by a rival pilot, rendering Porco unable to make a living protecting transport and passenger ships from pirates - some of the most gloriously incompetent pirates imaginable, by the way. "Porco Rosso' is suitable viewing for the kiddies but may be, in general, enjoyed more by an older audience - in addition to the soaring air battles and action-packed climax, there's plenty of romance, dry humor, and subtle political commentary. Regardless, it has the Ghibli charm, and is likely to have something for almost everyone. A truly one-of-a-kind movie (ask youself this: when was the last time you saw a movie about a trenchcoat, goggles and fedora-wearing pig piloting a brightly painted red airplane and fighting sky pirates?) and another jewel in the glorious Ghibli crown.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2005
Format: DVD
As a fan of this film for some years, I read the reviews posted here before obtaining a copy of the Disney release, because I wanted to be prepared for any disappointments if there were really egregious departures from the impressions I've formed of Miyazake's vision for his work.

No worries; after watching the DVD...twice now, with occasional pauses to switch language/subtitle tracks...I don't think there's a thing wrong with Disney's release.

As to the film itself, I love it; as I say above, it's been a favorite of mine for years. This somewhat quirky action/adventure story is a blast for any fan of the genre, but it's the aviation angle that grabs me in this one. Technically, for those who haven't seen it, Hayao Miyazake's affinity for aviation is most evident in this film...as a pilot and long time aviation junkie, it feels near-perfect to me, and explains why it's a personal high scorer on my own top ten list. The pertinent discussion here, though, is Disney's addition of an English language track in this release, so in writing this review I shall focus on my own feelings about it.

Now, I'm certainly no expert in the field of cinematic art, but I've watched a bunch of different versions of this film, from mediocre fan-subs on VHS to more professional DVD editions, so I have got several comparisons in mind to help form my opinion.

To begin with, sure, there are some minor variations from the dialogue I've seen before, but to me there's nothing significant to quibble over. I suppose if I was conversant in idiomatic Japanese I could speak with more authority, but I didn't have any jarring moments while watching the film, with two minor exceptions: Marco's original surname, 'Pabatto,' being substituted with the name 'Rosselini,' in the English dub and the mutation of his friend's name (and one of Gina's husbands) from 'Belneldi' to 'Berlini.' I suspect the latter may have been a bit of misunderstanding in the original Japanese actor Shuichiro Moriyama's pronunciation of the 'Ls' in the name that got carried over to this new release, though the name 'Belneldi' is clearly written on the group photo of Marco and his friends that still hangs in Gina's office.

The change from Marco Pabatto's name is less forgivible; even in this release if the original Japanese audio track (and the French one, too...I think; kinda hard to make out, but it sure isn't 'Rosselini!) is selected you can clearly hear Fio asking about 'Marco Pabatto' in the conversation at the campsite where Porco discloses his supernatural experience during the war, after which he was transformed into a pig.

Still, that's but a ripple on an otherwise serene sea, at least for me. I thought Michael Keaton did a fine job as Porco, from what I've read here I was expecting more of an over-the-top vocalization like he did in 'Beetlejuice.' Nope, nice work.

On the other hand, while Keaton is good, happily the very best Porco voice I've yet heard is right on this DVD, in Jean Reno's interpretation on the French audio track. I read on nausicaa.net that Miyzake-san thought Reno was even better than Moriyama's original Porco, and I concur in spades. I almost wish he'd done the English dub, too; it wouldn't be the first time this Frenchman played an Italian in an English-language movie...remember 'Leon,' aka 'The Professional?' Great actor.

One reviewer here disliked Susan Egan's take on the song 'Le temps des cerises' that Gina sings early in the picture, but I believe full credit should be given to Ms. Egan for making the effort to sing as well as a professional lounge chanteuse in addition to performing her speaking part in the film for consistency's sake. I admit to being terribly biased in this case, as I think Susan Egan has one of the most appealing and sultry speaking voices I've ever heard, but as for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed her rendition of the song, even if it might not have been quite as technically skilled as the original version was.

As for the English speaking Gina being 'curiously distant,' as Mr. Solomon commented in his in-house review, I must respectfully disagree with his asessment. Of course Gina is somewhat distant, she's had three husbands killed already, with her true love and old flame Porco still alive but in constant peril...even she herself comments at one point that she's cried herself out over the years and now only feels numb! Yet, in the film's more emotional moments I found Ms. Egan's Gina just as warm and intimate as Ms. Kato's ever was, sometimes even more so. Okay, it's subjective, and I'm biased. Your mileage may vary!

Cary Elwes was a hoot as Donald Curtis, with his mildly goofy Texas accent, and Kimberly Williams gave a great performance as Fio, sounding just as cute and spunky as did the original Japanese actress, Akemi Okamura. No disappointments there.

Top marks for David Ogden Stiers' take on Grandpa Piccolo in this release. He gets better every time with these projects; his inflection, tone, and nuance of voice are terrific, and his old codger's cackle is perfection itself. As impressed as I was with his characterization of Kamaji in 'Spirited Away,' he blew me away with his wonderfully hilarious voice acting here!

To sum up, for me Disney has taken one of my favorite films of all time and made it even more enjoyable with their version. I've recommended this film for years to friends and family, but had few takers as many of them didn't have the patience to pay the closer attention than normal required when viewing a subtitled movie. Now this has been remedied and the only thing seriously lacking in my Miyazaki collection is their English dub of Tonari no Totoro...c'mon, Disney, you can do it!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Even in his lesser efforts, Miyazaki's film surpass just about everything else that is taking place in feature length animation. Although I have managed to see most of his films over the years, PORCO RUSSO (Red Pig) is one that I have just seen for the first time, thanks to the series of high quality rereleases that Disney is undertaking. Apart from the long autoplay Disney commercial that intrudes upon the viewer when you first put the disc in, I must admit that Disney continues to do an excellent job in these releases, providing both the original Japanese version as well as consistently excellent English dubbings. By any standard, Miyazaki has established his reputation as the premiere feature length animator in film PORCO RUSSO is not a masterpiece along the lines of SPIRITED AWAY or NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, but it supplies further proof of Miyazaki's versatility and breadth. The setting is untypical, focusing on air pirates in the Adriatic, with excursions into Italy, though the focus on airplanes is profoundly typical of his work. Porco Russo is a highly accomplished bounty hunter, famous for his red airplane and for having mysteriously been transformed into a pig. His aeronautic preeminence, however, has been challenged by the sudden appearance of a cocky American flier, who has been hired to protect the air pirates and who seemingly disposes of Porco Russo when he shoots down his plane when the engine is stalled.

To be honest, the plot is adequate, but the real joy of the film lies in watching the interaction of the characters onscreen, and at marveling at the superb animation. All the details are simply perfect, from the studied stylishness of Porco Russo's outfits, which seem to have been copied directly from the pages of J. Peterman catalogs, to the specifics of the airplane design. There is also the elegance in the way Miyazaki's characters move and the way he frames each scene using the rhythm and pacing one associates with live action films rather than animation. Whereas the typical Disney film for decades contained all the action in the foreground, Miyazaki frequently allows the foreground to dominate the screen visually, while the action takes place in the deep background.

I suppose very few will experience this as their first venture into the magic that I Miyazaki. If so, as wonderful as this film is, the best is yet to come. Based merely on films such as NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, SPIRITED AWAY, and THE PRINCESS MONONOKE Miyazaki would have to go down as the finest animator of all time, since while others employ entire teams to produce the film, Miyazaki writes, directs, and serves as primary animator. But when one adds in such films as PORCO RUSSO, which would represent the highpoint in the career of most other animators, his brilliance is made even more obvious.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2005
Format: DVD
Think Casablanca but funnier, more action, great fight scenes, and Miyazaki's beautiful clouds and sunlit skies. In spite of my love and respect for Kiki and Totoro, I am almost now convinced that is is Hiyao's finest work, surpassing even Nausicaa!

If you have never seen one of his films, see this one. It is astounding in so many ways, and it may make you want to see more of his amazing creations.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Porco Rosso is by far my favorite Miyazaki film due to its witty humor and the anti-war theme. Althrough kids might not fully understand the movie, none of the content is actually "mature" enough that a whole family cannot enjoy this movie together.

The music and scores are fambulous as usual since Miyazaki and Hisaishi combined both their expertise together FLAWLESSLY.

I admit, I'm the pickiest person when it comes to voices matching personalities, but I really can't complain about the dubbing for this movie. It is actually enjoyable and believable as opposed to some dubs for other Miyazaki movies. The script follows the original quite closely. That makes me happy. Good Job!

The only thing I had a problem with was that they did not use the original for "Les Temps des Cerises" and the ending theme. I liked the voice of the original singer (Tokiko Kato) more so then the one they picked (don't know who), but the new one is not bad either.

Many might think that the ending is a bit of a blur, but that's Miyazaki's signature (i.e. watch end credit of My Neighbor Totoro and Nausicaa of Valley of the Wind). Miyazaki never does sequel of his films, which I fully agree with since somethings are better left unsaid and left to the imagination (which is a theme in most of his movies), but he does give hints throughout the movie on the ending. As for the actual ending, figure it out for yourself :)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2005
Format: DVD
I've been a Miyazaki fan since the late 80s, but I just enjoyed Porco Rosso for the first time. As I've only seen it once, I won't say much, but I have to add another 5 stars for this fantasmagoric film. Over the years, many reviews have touted this film as one of his best, if not his best. It could be. And that's saying a lot. The animation is absolutely magical: mesmerizing and exciting. The magical realisn is right on: think Gabriel Garcia Marquez at his best. The plot and characters are compelling. This film delivers everything the often misused animation medium promises: the creation of a reality at once real and fantastic. By the way, I prefer the Japanese voices to the dub, and not for anime purist reasons. It's just that Keaton's voice is too soft and tenor for the character. The Japanese actor's voice is dead on. This is a great movie.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 6, 2005
Format: DVD
Miyazaki has a gift for creating an alternate world that is consistent in its own rules. Indeed, only Miyazaki could have carried off this movie about a seaplane pilot turned into a pig. But now having experienced several of Miyazaki's works, I think that they are so successful because they extol good and honest behavior.

After "Spirited Away" I have sought out all Miyazaki's films--they are fun, they aren't predictable, they speak to all ages and they don't leave you embarrassed to have spent money on the entertainment.

As the father of several daughters, call me corny, but I enjoyed and appreciated the character of the young engineer (Piccolo's granddaughter) who was anxious to prove herself. She worked hard and validated everyone's confidence in her talents. Hardwork and achievement: What a great message that is so often lost in Hollywood's clumsy offerings.

The movie was so enjoyable because it honored good character. The "right" things happened. The honorable characters succeeded. The good guy wins. Yet there is not a hint of formula in the movie. So often such movies are so predicable that you end up rooting for the bad guy, but in Miyazaki's movies the themes of love, honor, honesty are all given excellent treatment and I cannot recommend them enough.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2004
Format: DVD
I'm probably going to be in a minority in naming this my favorite film, better even than Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. It's different from most of Miyazaki's other movies, in that the protagonist is middle-aged and most of his character development is subtle. It pays off in a tone that is considerably more adult than anything Miyazaki has done before or since - regardless of the slapstick air pirate sequences.
One of the other reviews here says Porco has become a pig due to a "tragic accident." As far as I can tell, he became a pig because he was disgusted with humanity; whether he did it to himself deliberately or whether it just happened seems ambiguous.
For my money, Porco's description of his near-death experience during the war is one of the best scenes ever animated.
I should note here that I've only seen a Japanese version, with somewhat poorly synchronized English subtitles. I don't care about the dubbed version at all, in fact. (There is a French language version with Jean Reno as Porco. That would be worth seeing.)
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