Friday, May 28, 2004

Unlikely Guardians

TOKYO GODFATHERS
It may seem as if the only movies I ever see are anime. Not so. However, they often are fresh and original in a way that Western animation does not even consider. Such is the case of "Tokyo Godfathers." This Japanese tribute to John Ford's western "Three Godfathers" centers on three homeless people: a middle aged drag queen, an alcoholic former bicycle racer, and a teenage runaway girl. Their discovery of a baby in a trash dump sends them off to find the baby's parents. Along the way they grow, chiefly by confronting each other and themselves about the lies they've told each other about the past. Hana, the drag queen, names the abandoned infant Grace and insists that she has been sent by God. Coincidences and miracles happen increasingly throughout and seem surprisingly Christian for a Japanese film.

The juxtaposition of humor and drama are deft and play off each other in unexpected ways. At one point Hana is dramatically describing how he will commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. We have been primed by this time to find Hana's pronouncements quietly comic. Then the viewer realizes that someone in the background is taking the exact measures that Hana describes. Both humor and drama are in play as they also realize it a beat later and rush to stop the person from jumping. We never were disappointed. Although one expects an overall happy ending the plot twists on the way were original and unexpected. It is rated PG-13 and some of the material is not suitable for children.

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