Friday, February 13, 2015

Porco Rosso Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Take flight with Porco Rosso, a valiant World War I flying ace! From tropical Adriatic settings to dazzling aerial maneuvers, this action-adventure from world-renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki is full of humor, courage and chivalry. When “Porco”—whose face has been trans- formed into that of a pig by a mysterious spell—infuriates a band of sky pirates with his aerial heroics, the pirates hire Curtis, a rival pilot, to get rid of him. On the ground, the two pilots compete for the affections of the beautiful Gina. But it’s in the air where the true battles are waged. Will our hero be victorious? For the first time ever on Disney Blu-ray, Porco Rosso is a thrilling ride you’ll never forget!

Film (3 out of 5 stars)
In a film that feels like one of Hayao Miyazaki's daydreams that's been ported over to the bigscreen, Porco Rosso tells the tale of a WWI aviator named Porco (Michael Keaton) who has been cursed by a spell which makes him look like a pig (don't expect much a backstory on that). Everyone that he interacts with seems to have no issues with his new appearance except for the occasional taunts from the local pirates that frequent the same locales as him. 

Not that Porco's relationship with the pirates is that great anyway, as we see when the film opens with some pirates kidnapping a bunch of kids and Porco is hired to rescue them, which he does with ease. It's a development that infuriates the pirate leader gang boss (Brad Garrett) and his men. They decide that Porco needs to be taught a lesson so they return to the Hotel Adriano to team up with the other pirate bosses to hire an arrogant American aviator named Donald Curtis (Cary Elwes) to take care of him. While there, Curtis quickly falls in love with the owner of the hotel, Gina (Susan Egan) but is dismayed to learn that she fancies Porco instead.

During all of this, Porco remains nonchalant about the possible danger until he is given a reality check when he is shot down by Curtis during his trip to Milan. Curtis believes that he's killed Porco and the pirates rejoice, but in actuality Porco survived the crash but desperately needs to get his plane repaired. He travels to Milan to meet his mechanic Piccolo (David Ogden Stiers), but is surprised to find that it's Piccolo's granddaughter Fio (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) that will be supervising the repairs. Not only that, but as there's no males around to make the repairs, an all female crew of old and young women are enlisted to fix and improve the plane. Porco is initially skeptical, but soon warms up to the concept once he sees the quality of their work. The stakes keep raising for Porco as he has to evade the Fascist police who have been looking for him since the war, he knows that he will have to return to face the pirates and Curtis. 

My son and I enjoyed Porco Rosso but there isn't much of a story to it and there's plenty of plot-holes. Despite that, the animation is pretty good and I really liked the visual design of Porco's hidden base and the dogfights. It also really helps to have a great vocal cast and Michael Keaton was an inspired choice to play Porco. His delivery seems like a combination of Batman and Beetlejuice and it works great. David Ogden Stiers is unrecognizable as Piccolo but he also does a great job portraying the feisty and crafty old mechanic. 

The female characters are also shown in a positive light (as they are throughout the movie) as they play important parts in the movie. They are great mechanics, allies, and potential love interests which also makes the film more progressive than most. Even when Porco and Curtis are fighting over Fia, it's Fia herself that sets the condition of the outcome of their bet that includes her marrying Curtis. Brad Garrett is always fun to listen to and his Bluto-like character adds a lot of humor to the film along with his crew that includes fine work from Bill Fagerbakke and Kevin Michael Richardson. There aren't any real consequences to the events of the film and even the fight sequences have a lightness to them that makes the film an easy one to recommend to families with young children. Any kids that love planes (as most of them do), will most likely enjoy the film like my son did.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
This 1080p transfer is just about as good as you'd expect from Disney. The colors are vibrant and offer a lush look at the locales and planes that's very appealing. With the deep blue of the ocean and fire engine red of Porco's plane, the images just pop off the screen. The transfer to Blu-ray has been done very well, with any print damage being removed while keeping some light grain around to keep the filmic feel it originally had. 
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Porco Rosso's DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track isn't the 5.1 mix that I was hoping for, but both the English and the Japanese tracks do sound very good. Dialogue is extremely clear and the sound effects are delivered with a nice and crisp sound. For a 2.0 track this is very good, but I can only imagine how much better a full 5.1 surround mix would have sounded for the aerial dogfights.
Extras (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I'm not too impressed with the extras that have been included and I'm a little surprised that more effort wasn't spent in this area. 
  • Original Japanese Storyboards - This is a feature length storyboard version of the film comprised of the original storyboards. 
  • Interview with Producer Toshio Suzuki - This is a three minute featurette featuring the producer of the film, Toshio Suzuki, who represents Miyazaki. He talks about the film and how it connected with Miyazaki and more. This was fine, but I wish Miyazaki had taken the time to speak for his own movie though. 
  • Behind the Microphone - This is a very brief look at the cast that performed the English version's dialogue. I'm always glad to hear from Michael Keaton.
  • Original Japanese Trailers - Here's the original four trailers.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Porco Rossi is an enjoyable film that captures what feels like a daydream and shares it with the rest of us. The cast is very good in their roles and the Blu-ray offers some excellent video and audio quality, but the extras are disappointing and I really wish that it had a 5.1 surround mix. All in all, I would still recommend the film as it's original and fun to watch and the Blu-ray is the way to see it. 

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