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From Up on Poppy Hill


Stars: Voices (English-language version): Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Aubrey Plaza, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Beau Bridges, Chris Noth, Isabelle Fuhrman, Ron Howard, Emily Osment, Alex Wolff

Director: Goro Miyazaki

Having watched the original-language version of this dull-as-ditchwater Japanese cartoon feature, it's hard to see how even a star-studded US cast in the English-language version could do much to enliven it.

Animation is primitive even by Ghibli standards. Inexpressive faces, with their unvarying expressions, sleepwalk their way through a very slight story about teenage student Umi (as drawn she looks about 10) who makes friends with one of the school's activists, Shun, and falls in love with him as they fight to save the creaking old 'Latin Quarter' that houses some of the college's least well-attended activities, such as psychology and archaeology.

Than they turn out to be brother and sister. Or maybe not...

Much is made of Umi's raising nautical flags each morning in memory of her her ship's captain father, killed in the Korean War (the film is set at the time of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics), but since only the well-versed will know what they mean, this has little impact on the film.

It's all very Japanese, with lots of would-be rousing choral singing from the military-minded students, but not an animal character in sight to relieve the monotony of it all.

David Quinlan

Japan 2011. UK Distributor: Studio Canal. Technicolor.
91 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Jul 2013