(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from From Up on Poppy Hill)
Doug (vo): A part of me says, "I should really hate From Up on Poppy Hill," like, really hate it. This is a phenomenally cliched story.
Doug (vo): A high school girl comes across a high school boy who, big shock, don't get along. But the more they hang out, the more they realize maybe they can get along, and start to form a romantic connection. But once she shows that her father has died in the war and he sees the picture, guess what? By huge coincidence, it looks like her father was also his father, and they may be brother and sister. Even he himself says it's kind of like a bad melodrama. Frustrated by this, they try to figure out what they're supposed to do while interacting with all sorts of goofy characters, and learning life lessons, and interacting with adults, who are sometimes right, sometimes wrong, while constantly hearing that goofy music that just celebrates a time of being young.
Doug (vo): Yeah, it sounds pretty standard and done a million times, and in many respects, it kind of is. I was kind of rolling my eyes that these are the turns that this story is taking, but at the same time, I did find myself kind of wrapped up in it. I think a lot of that comes from not only the pacing and the animation style, which is beautiful to look at, but also some really damn good voice acting.
[The characters are shown]
Doug (vo): I mean, the voice acting in the American dubs of the Ghibli films have usually been spectacular, and Disney's done a wonderful job. But this one especially seems good because unlike the other Ghibli films, there's not a lot of supernatural elements or magical scenes or weird angles or anything like that. It's just sort of straightforward "what you see is what you get". Therefore, the performances have to be good or it's gonna lose you very quickly. I'm really amazed at not only how well they match the lip movements, but how they keep the emotion of the characters totally intact while doing so. Everybody has a slip-up here or there, even the best actors, but this one seems really on track, it seems to hit everything pitch perfect.
[Various clips mostly focusing on the film's subplots are shown]
Doug (vo): Another strong point is its side stories which, again, are a little cliched, but so much time is dedicated to them, I do find myself actually getting pretty wrapped up in them. For example, there's a building that holds a bunch of school clubs that's going to be torn down. All the students inside, most of them boys, are pissed off and constantly fighting to keep it around. However, with the help of our main character and her friends, they show that a big part is the appearance, and that if they clean it up, get it looking nice, and stop being awkward social shut-ins, maybe they'll have a better chance to save it. At first, I was kind of annoyed at what cutouts a lot of these boys seemed like, just the traditional nerds that said traditional nerdy things. But after a while, I didn't really want to see that place go. I really found myself liking it. I even grew accustomed to some of these oddballs, even if they were kind of cliched.
Doug (vo): So on the one hand, yeah, it is kind of a story that's been done a million times, the coming-of-age story that's in the 60s and kind of American Graffiti-ish meets Animal House-ish meets...I don't know, just a million other movies you've seen before. But I think with a visual touch, some really good acting, and some really decent pacing and atmosphere, it actually comes out okay. Can you feel the manipulation when it's going on? Absolutely. But you can also kind of feel the charm of it, too, slowly overtime. I do still see a lot of major problems with it, especially with the music that seems constantly on all the time. But even that starts to die down after a while and you start to hear those people for what they're really saying, and maybe you start to see the movie for what it's really doing: Be a charming little film that may have been done a million times before, but maybe isn't trying to do anything that new. Just try to do it in a way that's standard, but charming, at least, charming enough. I'd say you probably have to be pretty forgiving in order to really get into this film, but if you lower down your defenses a little bit, it isn't half-bad. Not a great experience, but not a harsh one either. If you're looking for a romance that's standard but pleasant, this isn't a bad one to check out.
[A scene showing the characters sailing off on a steamboat is shown]