Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tree of Palme

As Movies at Random is, at its heart, random in a true sense of the term - random number generators are used to make the list, it's unnecessarily complicated - it stands to reason that crap nobody has ever heard of is going to show up. It's just the nature of the project, so with that in mind, here's Tree of Palme.

Tree of Palme is an anime, albeit one with a stupid name. It's about Palme, a puppet made from a special tree which gains sentience. For most of his life, he's dedicated to a sick girl, who dies, leaving him to sit around. For unnecessarily complicated reasons, he has a big ball put on his person, and goes on an adventure which sees him get a bunch of new friends - including a girlfriend, though there are moments where he's somewhere between Chris Brown and Ike Turner on the boyfriend quality scale - and go to try to become a real boy. Also, in the background, there is a bunch of other crap that makes varying degrees of sense, and a whole hell of a lot of phallic objects wandering around.

This is a movie that doesn't have the slightest clue what it wants to be. On one hand, the main character is an adorable puppet and his friends are all cute kids. The general story does owe a debt to Pinocchio as well, including stuff growing off the main character when he does bad things. However, the film also tries really hard to be quite adult as well. There is copious amounts of gore, lots of violence, and an overly complicated storyline which needs several flow charts and a degree in anime bullshit to decipher. Plus there are those distracting malevolent penises, which could only come from a very frustrated art director.

This is a mistake, since the movie is only good when it focuses on the puppet, and his struggle with coming to terms with his emerging emotions. It's fantastic when he struggles with what it means to be human - both positive and negative - and how people try to react around something that is entering a world of feelings that is very foreign to him.

It's also quite a pretty movie, even if half of the scenery is dong-shaped - and that's not even including the evil wangs that show up every so often. There's some great use of light and color here, and it has a style that could never be properly replicated in live action. Stuff like this makes you wish animation could be used for more than just kids movies, and that cell animation wasn't quickly being supplanted by boring 3D - this uses a combination, but you know. There are moments where it lingers on the scenery to create a mood, and you appreciate it just because it looks so good.

So I can't quite figure out why there's so much crap going on at once. The film doesn't benefit from the side-plot about the people who live underground having cracked faces, nor does it benefit from the tacked on action and villains with vague, constantly changing motives. The world is lovely, but it often feels like nobody quite knew what to do with all their ideas, so there's a lot of side action that doesn't go anywhere and doesn't add to the story. Simplified, the movie might be killer, but there's so much unnecessary distracting crap - the entire thing is 130 minutes long - it can't focus on the little puppet and his struggles with his emerging humanity.

This is a noble idea, executed poorly. There are enough ideas here for several different films, and as a result there's no real focus. Ideas flash by, many don't go anywhere, and many of the subplots don't have anything resembling a satisfying resolution. There's pointless gore that only serves to keep young kids out of the theater, and all manner of simply unneeded crap. With some focus, this could have been good, and there are individual scenes that remain interesting. As a whole, it's just too overloaded to make it to the mark.

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