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MY NEIGHBOURS THE YAMADAS, 1999
Movie Review

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My Neighbours the Yamadas MOVIE POSTER
My Neighbours the Yamadas, 1986
Movie Reviews

Directed by Isao Takahata.
Voices by (Japanese version): Toru Masuoka, Yukiji Asaoka, Masako Araki
(English version): James Belushi, Dixie Carter, Molly Shannon
Review by Lauren Medley



SYNOPSIS:

The life and misadventures of a family in contemporary Japan.

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REVIEW:

When you mention Studio Ghibli, most people straight away think of films such as 'Princess Mononoke' or 'Spirited Away', usually Hayao Miyazaki's works, which is no bad thing. But then every so often, films by other directors at Studio Ghibli get over looked.'My Neighbours the Yamadas' is one of Studio Ghibli's finest films and is very often forgotten, which is a shame as this film is original and a refreshing change to the usual style of animation we see these days. Again this is a review for the English dub.

Directed by Isao Takahata, the film focuses on the dysfunctional Yamada family, showing their everyday hectic and funny lives and adding in some rather amusing daydream sequences. The film shows what most families actually go through on a daily basis, but shown with a Ghibli spin, which is used perfectly and the film is never dull because of it. There isn't actually a straight plot, but shows the Yamadas daily routines and the family members own particular situations, which are always funny and you will most certainly relate to the situations on screen and relate to the characters.

The film has a well known cast with James Belushi, Molly Shannon and David Ogden Stiers taking the leads. The actors do a great job in breathing life into the family and some of the best laughs are due to the actors performances as they are so believable as the characters they are portraying. The best example of this is between the two parents Matsuko ( Molly Shannon ) and Takashi ( James Belushi ), the Moonlight Rider sequence is hilarious or any of the little squabbles involving the grandmother Shige ( Tress MacNeille ). You will adore all of the characters and most certainly know some one just like them, which is great as you feel you can relate to the film and characters.

The animation is like nothing I've ever seen in a film before, it was meant to be seen as a comic strip style rather then Studio Ghibli's traditional anime style, but I believe it looks more like a moving painting, even though the film was done entirely on computers digitally. It is a beautiful film and although the animation could be seen as simple, when you continue to watch you'll realise just how elaborate and detailed it is even though it is quite simple.

The music and theme song done by Akiko Yano, is modest, quiet and never the center of attention, but always fits the tone of the scenes perfectly and does it in a very subtle way. At the end of each segment there is usually some underlying sincere message, which the soundtrack has to fit and support. It always achieves this and the theme song fits in with the tone, mood and even visual style, to some extent, of the film.

Compared to previous Studio Ghibli titles and director Isao Takahata's work, 'My Neighbours the Yamadas' is quite unusual and rather exceptional, as it does have underlying messages, such as respect your elders or value your time, but as the film delivers them in such a fun light hearted way you cannot help but have these messages sink in just a little. The film does have its serious moments though, usually done in a haiku at the end of each small segment by famous authors like Matsuo Basho, this usually conveys the message of the piece and emphasises the importance of the lesson that they are trying to teach in that segment. Though saying that it is a fun family film and it doesn't force you to pay attention to these lessons, rather it just shows you or informs you in a way anyone can understand and take notice if they wish too.

'My Neighbours the Yamadas' is a very underrated film and often forgotten Ghibli classic, which is a pity as it is so very enjoyable and original too, I can guarantee you won't have seen anything like this before and you won't forget this film in a rush either.

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