Porco Rosso (1992) — Pigs… in… planes!

“Face it. I’m a pig.”

Sue’s rating: When Pigs Fly!

Sue’s review: Let me get this out of the way right at the beginning. I rented this movie with every intention of mocking it. That’s right, malice aforethought. Guilty as charged. There might even have been maniacal cackling involved when I hit the icon at Netflix. I mean, come on, an “adults-oriented” Japanese Anime movie about a WWI fighter ace who is not only a pig (with a snout and a mustache) but who served in the Italian Air Force? Why, that’s crazier than… than a beagle in a Sopwith Camel!

I was wondering how the heck they’d handle the subtitles. Would they have a wise old spider spinning out his thoughts and words? Would those words be along the lines of, “Oink you, Red Baron!” If our hero happened to be shot down, would there be a stirring death scene or just a sale on sausage? The mind boggled with possibilities.

In retrospect, I feel cheated.

How do I say this? Porco Rosso actually IS an adults-oriented Japanese Anime movie about a WWI fighter ace who is not only a pig but who served in the Italian Air Force. And there weren’t even any subtitles because it was dubbed in English fer criminy’s sake.

At the beginning of the Great War, Porco — then known as Marco — was just an ordinary guy with a flair for flying bi-planes. After the traumatic of seeing most of his friends killed in a massive air battle, Porco abandoned the military and (suddenly and inexplicably transformed into pork with opposable thumbs) settled on a deserted island in the Adriatic sea, where he found work as a sort of aerial bounty hunter, chasing down air pirates, protecting shipping interests and drinking a lot of wine.

The air pirates, possibly miffed at constantly being left with egg on their face (egg goes great with ham, you know) hire an American ace to take down Porco. Porco, in the meantime is having some mechanical issues with his plane and needs to fly to Italy to get it fixed. The Italian government, somewhat annoyed at Porco’s desertion (especially because he left with a plane that technically belongs to them) have their secret police out in force to… well, arrest is maybe the wrong word since pigs don’t have too many civil rights and Italians are known for their cuisine. And of course, there’s the girl he left behind him. Seriously. If you want to know what happens, rent it.

Porco Rosso has elements of comedy and a bit of slapstick, but it’s also centered on adult themes like unrequited love, loss and redemption. Some areas are pretty slow moving and might lose the attention of your average Kool-Aide guzzler, but really it’s a pretty nifty movie. Directed by Hiyao Miyazaki of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke fame, the artwork — especially the backgrounds — is stunning, and the attention paid to every small detail in both scenery and action, is beyond impressive. It’s worth a look, just for that.

One thing that drove me absolutely nuts during the course of watching this though was the familiarity of the voices. I’d always thought that voice-over work tended to be done by voice-specific actors Not in this case. Michael Keaton, Carey Elwes, Brad Garrett and David Ogden Stiers all contributed, which goes to show what can be accomplished when Disney gets the American rights to anything.

If the story is weak anywhere, I’d say the ending is a bit off-kilter. I think it was meant to be beautiful and poetic and mysterious, but the Americanized version seems a little tacked on and obscure. Also, some of the dialogue is stretched in weird ways. This is understandable since they had to write the English to match mouth movements written for Japanese. In fact, if you stop to think about this, it was dubbed in English over Japanese in a story about Italian people, one of whom sings entirely in French. Oi vey!

In fact, Porco Rosso reminded me more of Bogart-ish film than a zingy commercial for “the other white meat”, although trying to explain this to some of my friends led to inquiries as to what drugs I’d been doing and why hadn’t I shared?

In any case, if you get the chance, Porco Rosso is actually worth a look.

Ah, and for those keeping count, no parents were killed in the filming of this movie, however spouses did not fare nearly as well.

Didja notice?

  • The opening credits are written in Japanese, Italian, Korean, English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, French and German. Some scroll backwards depending on how they’re supposed to be read.
  • Porco lets the pirates KEEP some the loot they stole? For repairs? Huh?
  • Signal arguments between the planes include things like, “You sissies!”
  • The numerous references to personal hygiene, or the lack therof.
  • The squadron of pirate planes gave me (Sue) a Hanna-Barbera flashback. Anyone else remember “Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines”? Geesh, I’m so old.
  • The only American character in the movie was voiced by a Brit. (Carey Elwes) All the Italians were voiced by Americans.
  • Check out those haircuts! Especially on the pig.
  • How does Porco manage to fit those massive floppy ears under his flight helmet? How?
  • There is no greater force on Earth than the women of an extended Italian family.
  • Fio is one seriously hyper chick.

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