Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) 2.0 stars

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Cancellation of the retirement of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, whose Princess Mononoke was a worthy valedictory to the traditional hand-drawn method. For this addendum to his career, he has made liberal, corner-cutting use of computer-generated backgrounds; and the clash of styles creates perhaps the most overt conflict in the entire film, together with an unwanted undercurrent of sadness and resignation. A contemporary fairy tale about a timid little girl (of indistinct race) who learns to cope — or in other words a textbook metaphor of growth — it lacks something of the drama and the narrative drive of Mononoke, though it lacks nothing in visual imagination (a fully realized spirit world where anything goes) and nothing, either, in audacity. No home-grown animated film from Disney, the U.S. distributor, would dare dish up such dreamy inscrutability. Nor would it dare drag on for more than two hours, a bit long by any measure, even though individual episodes have the fascination of a Sunday installment of Little Nemo in Slumberland. Much of the strength of its grip comes from Miyazaki's meticulous simulation of the classical camerawork and cutting of live-action filmmaking. The scene construction remains reliably solid, however vaporous the content.

Duncan Shepherd

Length: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Rated: PG

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