Friday, February 26, 2010

Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro

If there's one person on earth who knows what makes a good family film, it's Hayao Miyazaki. Take Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, for example. If I was 10, I would be watching this movie every day. Even now, long after I was 10, this is still a great time that pretty much anyone can enjoy. It's perfect for that age when you can handle a bit more action and a bit more drama, but are still looking for fun in your films. It's an animated adventure aimed squarely at anyone who loves a good animated adventure.

The story follows Lupin III, the latest in a line of master thieves, picking up the scent right after a major robbery. Alas, the robbery doesn't net much more than a big collection of counterfeit bills, leading Lupin and friends to go after the source of the counterfeit money, which is in the Castle of Cagliostro, located in a tiny country that even smaller than Luxembourg. There he sees a beautiful bride on the run from thugs, leading to an adventure with an evil count, plenty of action and a complex mystery. It ticks pretty much all of my 10 year old equivalent's buttons, and even now I appreciate the fun involved. As a kid who grew up on Inspector Gadget and Darkwing Duck, I lived for this kind of thing.

This is very early Miyazaki, so it is clearly much lower budget than many of his later and increasingly detailed works. Yet, his animation is still beautiful, and is actually reminiscent of all those cartoons kids wasted their Saturdays watching. He's still got that trademark attention to detail, with the slightly cartoonier Fiat 500 - all Fiat 500s are cartoon to an extent - that Lupin drives being a pretty much spot on replica. Everything from the elaborate gearwork in the climax to the smallest design flourish is clearly thought out.

Still, all the detail in the world wouldn't matter if the film wasn't any good, and this film is just plain fun. Yes, the sound effects are a bit wacky, but it's animated slapstick, it's appropriate. Lupin is such a likable character overall that one can't help but be drawn to him and his adventures. The villains are exaggerated and it often gets silly, but it should it's a fun movie, that the family can enjoy.

Well, the family can enjoy it provided they're not watching the Magna International dub, at least. Here's the thing Magna, this is a movie that was designed for the family. In short, young boys and girls will be watching this with their moms and dads. Know what moms and dads don't like? Swearing. So why is the dub so sweary? I mean, I have no problem with profanity in my own life, but it doesn't fit the tone, it doesn't fit the characters, and it actually distracts from the movie as a whole. To take the language even to PG-13 levels is distracting, and reeks of a company trying way too hard to be cool that they can't understand something as subtle as tone.

Still, a bad dub isn't the film's fault, and when someone figures that out and does a much needed re-dub, this will again be the perfect family picture. Miyazaki just knows what kids like, and the children of the world will be poorer off when he stops making movie. Luckily for all of us, he seems to be dragged out of retirement a lot.

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