Empty heads save ecosystem
By Rachel Saslow
Friday, April 22, 2011
Is the French animated movie “Mia and the Migoo” for kids? The basic facts indicate yes: It’s rated PG, Mia is a little girl on an adventure and the Migoo are gentle monsters in an enchanted forest. But what kind of kid will be able to appreciate this serious plot, which involves investors pulling out of a land-development deal and a scary, knife-wielding witch?
The film may appeal to environmentalists who come to appreciate its earnest message of conservation. (It opens in Washington today to coincide with Earth Day.) Or it may call to animation enthusiasts who come to see a film by director Jacques-Remy Girerd, who created “Mia and the Migoo” from half a million beautiful hand-painted frames. The landscapes are particularly stunning with their visible brush strokes — skies of blue, purple and green slashes. The figures are outlined in pencil and filled in with watercolor.
Mia (Amanda Misquez) is a plucky girl who has been living alone in a village while her father works at a far-off construction site across the mountains; her mother is dead. She sets off alone and barefoot on a dangerous journey to find her father, carrying a feather, shell and die as talismans.
Along the way, Mia spends the night at what seems to be an abandoned cabin but turns out to be a witch’s lair. Whoopi Goldberg voices the witch, who cuts off Mia’s hair with a knife to use in a spell during her two or so unnecessary minutes on screen.
A parallel storyline develops with a boy named Aldrin (Vincent Agnello), who is also heading across the mountains, tagging along with his emotionally unavailable father who is developing the luxury resort that Mia’s dad is helping build. Aldrin’s mother is also out of the picture — she’s researching global warming in Antarctica.
As Mia and Aldrin get closer to the construction site, they start to realize that the tropical plot of land (another animation highlight with a sparkling lake, exotic birds and waterfalls) is enchanted. There’s a Tree of Life at its center and as the construction damages the land, the tree begins to die.
The Migoo (voiced by Wallace Shawn) guard the tree. The movie — already less-than-engrossing — really flies off the rails when the Migoo enter for the last third or so. They’re bumbling, grayish-brown, shape-shifting monsters with backless heads; you can see the sky behind them through their mouths when they talk. Not only do audiences have to tolerate the Migoo toward the end, they have to sit through a prolonged battle for the land and the Tree of Life.
It will be delightful for that miniscule population of mature kids who happen to be both environmentalists and snobs about quality animation.
Contains thematic elements, some peril and brief mild language.