The Boy and the Heron movie poster
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The Boy and the Heron
The Boy and the Heron movie poster

The Boy and the Heron Movie Review

Beloved filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki is back with another fantastical animated adventure, and the Miyazaki diehards are out in force proclaiming how wonderful it is. The thing is, when you’re a huge fan of a director, you sometimes lose sight of reality, and in this case the reality is that The Boy and the Heron is a beautifully animated but frustratingly average film.

Miyazaki has made some great movies–Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle among them (I for whatever reason enjoy Ponyo the most)--and The Boy and the Heron simply isn’t one of them. About a kid grieving the loss of his mother who is stalked by an obnoxious heron-like creature with buck teeth and who sounds a lot like Danny Bonaduce (I watched the original Japanese version), the movie takes our protagonists from one weird scenario to the next as if Miyazaki was just taking shrooms and putting whatever popped into his head to paper. It’s not a mess, but you have to try hard to convince yourself this thing is fully coherent, either.

As expected, The Boy and the Heron looks terrific; though traditionally animated, it’s rich with detail, strange (yet largely grounded) creatures and characters, and settings. If you let it take hold, it can take you for a ride.

And yet it all feels a bit surface level. The immersion isn’t there, the pull into this world more of a challenge than Miyazaki’s greater films. Even worst, it isn't particularly entertaining. As odd and goofy as some of the things are here, the movie takes itself too seriously; it didn't need to be funny, but it never lets loose, either.

The Boy and the Heron will appeal to big fans of the filmmaker, but this isn’t an adventure I’d head to theaters for.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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