PG (mild thematic elements, incidental smoking images); 91 min.
Just about every animated film from an American studio these days is nonstop manic to the point of exhaustion. Exiting the theater can be a relief.
Thus the gentleness of a Studio Ghibli film from Japan, with its hand-drawn, 2-D throwback look and irresistible colors, is always welcome.
From Up on Poppy Hill, conceived by the Miyazakis (Hayao, the legendary master, and his son, Goro, who now directs), is an ambitious film, set in 1964 during the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics, that tackles Japans transition from tradition to an embracing of a Western-style economy as seen through a group of high schoolers in the seaside town of Yokohama.
My only complaint is in the dubbing. The American colloquialisms of the voice cast, which includes Gillian Anderson, Beau Bridges and Bruce Dern, are jarring when the subject is Japanese traditions. Whereas most Studio Ghibli films are just as good when dubbed into English, From Up on Poppy Hill might be one that would really benefit from being seen in its native language.
Since its primary delights are visuals you can get lost in, that is a small complaint indeed.
Exclusive: Magnolia, Dallas; Cinemark West Plano; opens May 17 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle