Butler County Times Gazette
  • My View: Taking a look at ‘The Wind Rises,’ ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’

  • Two recently released animated movies are both what you might call unusual. The first has the almost unheard-of distinction of being aimed primarily at adults, while the second offers an entertaining time at the movies for both kids and their parents.
    • email print
  • Two recently released animated movies are both what you might call unusual. The first has the almost unheard-of distinction of being aimed primarily at adults, while the second offers an entertaining time at the movies for both kids and their parents.
    One of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Feature, “The Wind Rises” is a Japanese historical drama. It’s about the plane designer Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, leading a cast of English-speaking actors in this dubbed version of the film). Jiro’s planes were used by the Empire of Japan in kamikaze operations during World War II. But the movie is less about destruction than it is about Jiro the dreamer and his search for beauty, both in the skies and in his more earthbound pursuit of Naoko (Emily Blunt), the love of his life.
    A biopic might seem like a departure for director Hayao Miyazaki, famous for some of the most surreal and beautifully animated films of all time (including “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke”). But “The Wind Rises” has the same otherworldly quality as Miyazaki’s other films, particularly in dream sequences featuring an Italian inventor named Caproni (Stanley Tucci) and the depiction of an earthquake and its aftermath. Like his earlier work, Miyazaki’s latest (and, reportedly, his last) masterpiece includes images I’ll never forget, like when Naoko stanches the flow of a lung hemorrhage, or when Jiro’s tears fall like fat raindrops.
    The movie has been criticized for making a hero out of an inventor of war machines, but Miyazaki doesn’t shy away from the devastation wrought by Jiro’s creations. The moment when his aircraft finally passes a flight test is a melancholy one, because that’s when the dream ends and the cruel realities of war take over.
    Another recent animated movie also takes a keen interest in history, but to more comedic effect. Based on characters featured in “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”, which first aired in 1959, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is largely faithful to its source material. It’s about a super-smart dog named Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) who happens to be the adoptive parent of a red-headed boy named Sherman (Max Charles). Using the WABAC, a time machine invented by Mr. Peabody, the two get into adventures in different historical periods. A notable addition to the film is a sequence that shows how Mr. Peabody came to adopt Sherman. Set to a famous song written for John Lennon’s son, Sean, this flashback has some of the same poignancy as director Rob Minkoff’s previous movies, especially “Stuart Little” and its sequel.
    Page 2 of 2 - The early scenes showing Sherman’s first day at school and his troubles with a girl named Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter) are often amusing. But the movie really takes off when Sherman and Penny jump in the WABAC. From that point on, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is a funny and magical trip through time. Both kids and adults will be delighted as Mr. Peabody, Sherman and Penny encounter various historical figures from Ancient Egypt, the Italian Renaissance and other periods. Kids might even be inspired to crack a history book, because of the way this movie makes curiosity cool and the past a blast.
    “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is playing this weekend at the Augusta Historic Theatre, 523 State Street. Showtime is 7:30pm on Saturday and 2pm on Sunday. Tickets are $6. Look for a Disney Blu-ray of “The Wind Rises” later this year.
      • calendar