Facebook Twitter

Film review: Laputa, Castle in the Sky

SHARE Film review: Laputa, Castle in the Sky

"Laputa, Castle in the Sky" may initially seem rather ill-timed, since it comes to Salt Lake City hot on the heels of the gorgeous, classically animated "Little Mermaid" and "All Dogs Go to Heaven." After all, this Japanese import is hardly in the same league, with stiff characters who move more like the Saturday morning slide-shows on television than the graceful mermaids in the Disney film.

But what "Laputa" lacks in full animation it makes up for in style and imagination. This is science fiction/fantasy with more than a little nod to the multichapter serials of old and the visuals - especially of flying machines and gadgetry - are fascinating.

Try to picture Terry Gilliam doing an animated "Star Wars" by way of Jules Verne.

The story is set in some time-warp alternate universe where there is no space travel or even jet aircraft, yet there are huge robots and ray guns.

The story has a young orphan girl named Sheeta trying to get back to her home, an island in the sky called "Laputa." With the help of another orphan, young Pazu, she escapes from some bad guys who want to find the island for their own greedy purposes, and they are alternately kidnapped, rescued and placed in a variety of dangerous situations.

The film is especially effective in the early scenes with the flying machines and in the latter quarter when they finally make it to the high-flying island. But it doesn't work all the way, the major drawback being its more than two-hour length, which will be taxing for adult animation buffs and impossible for young children. That's really too bad since the film could easily have been cut by 20 minutes or a half-hour and not lost much.

As for the American dubbing, the kids' voices are shrill and some of the comical characters far too idiotic.

But if you are a fan of the fantastic with an eye for unusual artistic design and can overlook these drawbacks, "Laputa" may be up your alley. At any rate it's worth a look. Don't expect this one to hang around as long as "Mermaid" and "Dogs," however.

It is unrated, but would probably get a PG for violence.