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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Porco Rosso (1992)

"Thanks for the offer, but I'd rather be a pig than a fascist."
- Porco Rosso (Michael Keaton)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: May 13, 2005

Stars: Michael Keaton, Brad Garrett, Cary Elwes
Other Stars: Kimberly Williams, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

MPAA Rating: PG for violence and some mild language
Release Date: February 22, 2005
UPC: 786936175264
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BB C

DVD Review

The films of revered Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki have always displayed a curious fascination with flight. It's not just that there are flying machines or action sequences in the air—a remarkable number of them, including Kiki's Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, and Spirited Away, to name but a few, include extended scenes intended to capture flight's visceral rush and symbolic spiritual freedom, whether you're riding a dragon or a broomstick or piloting a machine. And no Miyazaki film is more preoccupied with the act than 1992's Porco Rosso, an unusually small, laid back story, considering the hero is a giant talking pig (another common element in many of the animator's movies—the pig, not the giant talking part).

Porco (voiced in the English dub by Michael Keaton) is a bounty hunter working in World War I-era Italy. He keeps to himself not only because he doesn't want the government meddling in his affairs, but because he's been placed under a never-explained curse that has given him the features of a pig. His only real joy in life comes from his tentative relationship with Gina (Susan Egan), the widow of one of Porco's buddies from the war. He cares for her, but remains distant.

Wanted in his home country for his actions during the war, Porco makes his living off of the bounty he gets from shooting down air pirates. Eventually, they get the idea that if they band together, they won't have to put up with him ruining their plans. The pirates hire ace American pilot Donald Curtis (Cary Elwes) to take him down. In their first encounter, Porco's plane is badly damaged, and when he takes it to be repaired, he meets Fio (Kimberly Williams), a young girl who will challenge him to change his outlook on life. Oh, yeah, and there are some dogfights and explosions and stuff too.

While it certainly sounds a little weird, Porco Rosso's blend of realism and magic works quite well, mostly because the whys of the story don't matter as much with such strong characters. Miyazaki isn't afraid to spend long stretches of time simply letting us get to know Porco, and understand his personality—particularly during a moonlit conversation between the hero and Fio, in which the girl is able to glimpse, if only for a moment, the man behind the inhuman features. This is a film that's entirely appropriate for children, but which will be appreciated much more by adults—Miyazaki, perhaps better than any other filmmaker, is able to serve both audiences in equal measures. Animation lovers will be pleased as well—Porco features the Japanese animator's signature flying scenes, which happen to be a series of ambitious dogfights, and the character design and animation is very strong as well (if not up to modern Disney-levels).

In terms of this release, Disney has put together a brand-new English dub, packed with big-name actors, but it never sounds like stunt casting. These performers aren't just phoning it in, they are doing their best to stay true to the source material, and you can tell. Michael Keaton does some of his best work in ages as Porco, and his vocals retain the spirit of the original Japanese while offering a slightly different take on the character. The disc also includes the French track, with Luc Besson favorite Jean Reno in the title role, reportedly Miyazaki's preferred performance. Some might say it's blasphemy to watch in anything but the original language, but that has its drawbacks too (the animators never intended text to distract you from their work, for one), and anyway, isn't the point of DVD that it's your choice?

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Porco Rosso is 13 years old, but looks great—just don't expect the crisp presentation of a modern Disney film and you'll be pleased. Colors are strong overall, though the image appears slightly grainy at times, and solid lines to exhibit some unobtrusive ringing. From what I'd read beforehand, I was expecting this transfer to be a mess, but I'd say it stands up to any of the other Miyazaki titles Disney has released.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Japaneseyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in the original Japanese, English, and French. All three tracks are in stereo, and sound about the same. Dialogue is clear, while sound effects are spread nicely across the front mains. A more directional mix would have been nice during flying sequences, but for the most part, what's here works.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bambi: Special Edition, The Incredibles, Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind/Porco Rosso/The Cat Returns, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky
2 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Porco Rosso has the least impressive extras of the most recent set of Studio Ghibli films, but everything that is included is worthwhile, if brief.

Disc 1 includes another excellent Behind the Microphone segment. This 10-minute piece on the English dub includes interviews with Michael Keaton, Brad Garrett, Kimberly Williams, Susan Egan and David Ogden Stiers. Normally I watch the Japanese track, but this film, like many of the Ghibli's (save Kiki's Delivery Service and James Van Der Beek in Castle in the Sky), has such a great dub that I like seeing the work that went into creating it.

Also on Disc 1 is a very brief interview with Toshio Suzuki, a lead producer for Studio Ghibli. He talks about what inspired Miyazaki to make the movie and talks about his commitment to the project. Japanese PR interviews are always so polite and formal, so even this short piece was interesting to me.

Closing out the disc are original Japanese trailers and TV spots (six in all) and a Disney trailer gallery with spots for Bambi: Special Edition, The Incredibles, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind/Porco Rosso/The Cat Returns, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Castle in the Sky.

As always, Disc 2 includes the entire film in storyboard form. This is something I'll probably never even take a second look at, but I'm sure artists and burgeoning animators will find more to appreciate.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

Porco Rosso may not have the name recognition of a Princess Mononoke or Naussicaä, but don't let that fool you. Despite the rather unusual premise, this is one of Miyazaki's most mature and accessible films, with some of the best dogfight and flying sequences I've ever seen. The DVD is a treat, with three excellent audio tracks and a smattering of worthwhile bonus material.

 


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