Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Big Fish & Begonia

Probably not much time to catch this even if you're reading the review just as it goes up, as it's only playing single evening shows at Kendall Square and Boston Common for tonight and tomorrow, and I think only tonight's screening at Kendall Square is subtitled. That surprises me a bit - I actually went through the listings on AMC's website to see whether they were showing subtitles or dubs, and they all seemed to be listed as subtitles. I get there Saturday night, though, and it's all in English.

Kind of a bummer, that, and surprising - they play a lot of Chinese stuff there, and most of the times they've played animated films from Shout! and Funimation before, they've been subtitled. Makes me wonder if they drew bigger crowds for the dubbed In This Corner of the World than the original subtitled run. It brought back memories of watching anime dubbed by the U.S. distributor's office staff, and that's not exactly a plus in my book, although I gather that this sort of voice-over talent has its own fandom.

It's one to put on the list of "animated films with young female leads to give my nieces", but not that high - it's not exactly violent but overwhelming, and sends something of a mixed message.

Dayu haitang (Big Fish & Begonia)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 April 2018 in AMC Boston Common #6 (first-run, DCP)

I wonder, a bit, if I would have enjoyed Big Fish & Begonia a bit more if it had played subtitled (as advertised) rather than in an English dub, or if a better handle on Chinese folklore would help. It would have still bumped up against some technical issues, I think, but, likely would have had a lot fewer "wait, why" moments. I don't imagine kids would stop and scratch their heads quite so much, but this movie is just far enough off the beaten path outside of China that kids might have to be led there.

It opens in a world beneath our own, where the ocean is like the sky, populated by magical beings who control the natural world above. Chun will control the blossoming of begonias someday, and like the other sixteen-year-old godlings, she is to spend a week in the world above in the form of a red dolphin, observing how their action affect it, though she is not to make contact with the humans. She almost doesn't make it back, getting caught in a net during a storm, but a young fisherman frees her at terrible cost. Overwhelmed by guilt, she makes a deal with the man who keeps the souls of humans who have passed on - they take the form of fish in this other world - intending to raise the one there on her account until it is large enough to swim home and return to life. But though her friend Qiu will help her with anything - he's got a powerful crush - they're just kids, and not prepared for how others will see this as a chance to satisfy their own ambitions, or how Chun raising "Kun" may have dire consequences for their whole world.

That last part, which sets up the danger of the situation, too often doesn't make a whole lot of sense; Big Fish & Begonia is the sort of fantasy where every use of magic comes with strikingly cataclysmic side effects not detailed until after the fact that don't necessarily follow from the actual situation, with seemingly just as many adjustments to actually achieve the desired result after the fact. It shows a fair amount of plotting where, even if simply telling the truth might have made things worse, it never even seems to come up as an option. On top of that, the writers seem afraid of the life triangle at the center - understandable, when two of the people involved are almost never human at the same time, and making them seemingly sexless at the end just confuses matters more.

Full review on EFC

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