This newest review for A Timely Blogathon hosted by Movierob and myself, comes from Tom of Plain, Simple Tom Reviews. Tom has chosen to review My Neighbour Totoro (1988) – a Studio Ghibli classic, one of my absolute favourites. Tom’s blog is all about reviews of both recent and older films, and musings on television as well. Be sure to check his blog out after reading his lovely review below! Thanks Tom!
There really is something admirable about films that are 90 minutes or less; in the best cases, we get to see a compact, intelligent, straightforward film that doesn’t outstay its welcome and doesn’t have us shifting in our seats, constantly looking at our watches. Looking at some examples, we see such great films as “The Lion King”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Office Space” and we are reminded of what magic a film can deliver in a relatively short amount of time.
For this blogathon dedicated to all films 90 minutes or less, hosted by Movierob and Film Grimoire, I have decided to represent the 1988 Studio Ghibli film “My Neighbour Totoro”. Running at just 86 minutes (IMDB confirmed!), this is a perfect example of what wonders a craftsman can weave in just under an hour and a half.
For those who haven’t seen it (please do, it obviously won’t take long!), “My Neighbour Totoro” is a Japanese animated film, written and directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki, about a father and his two young daughters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to a new house in the country to be close to their mother, who is ill in hospital. Once there, they discover a whole lot of magical spirits, both in the house and in the neighbouring forest, including the eponymous King Totoro.
What makes this film so endearing is the central relationship between the two young sisters; rather than having serious, complex motivations and thought processes that you might expect in any other film, “Totoro” mostly consists of the two girls enthusiastically exploring their new environment, simply acting the way young girls naturally do: constantly running, jumping, giggling, laughing, copying each other and sticking their tongues out at boys! On that note, the character of Kanta, a ten-or-so-year-old boy, certainly acts the way young boys do around girls, namely looking sullen, not saying anything and then running away from them!
The special relationship between Satsuki and Mei is established within a matter of seconds, with minimal dialogue or explanation; it’s the kind of film that needs no complicated backstory and which is ideally suited to a 90-minute running time. The girls’ boundless energy and joy is so naturally presented and is heartwarming and sweet. Surely we all remember how it feels to be young and full of wonder.
In addition, all of the adult characters in “Totoro” are understanding and encouraging, never disbelieving the girls’ stories about magical spirits or placating them in a patronising manner. With no antagonists to be found anywhere, every character in this film seems to agree that there is magic to be found and that’s just fine.
The film is also beautifully designed and the animation is wonderful. As well as the incredibly realistic design and animation of the two sisters, the spirits, especially Totoro and the magnificently imaginative “cat bus”, are very well crafted.
I also love the music of “Totoro”, from the infectious fun of “Sampo/Hey Let’s Go” to the magical closing credit song “Tonari no Totoro/My Neighbour Totoro”, the music is used somewhat briefly, but always appropriately.
And as to the 86 minute running time: it’s ideal. Any more would certainly be wasteful and the film need not be any longer, seeing as how the plot is very simple and as far from convoluted as you could ever hope it to be.
In summary, “My Neighbour Totoro” is warm, charming and beautiful. A perfect family film, this 86 minute marvel is all about childhood innocence, wonder and of course – magic.
★ ★ ★ ★