Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Helen the Baby Fox

Dances with Japanese Fox

This review brought to you courtesy of movieXclusive.com

Helen the Baby Fox belongs to the family of movies which feature cutesy animals and the relationship with their human protectors, along the lines of movies such as Lassie and Free Willy. Interesting enough, the subject of a fox (besides fox vixens in many Chinese folk tales) actually is a novelty in itself, and having bestowed upon him disabilities adequately fueled plenty of heartwrenching moments.

A young schoolboy, Taichi (Arashi Fukasawa), is a social outcast in school, with his vivid imagination he uses to spins incredible tales from. But these are the exact same fairytale-like stories which his mother (Yasuko Matsuyuki) spins for him, as she gallivants to far out locations for her photography fix, leaving the boy alone for most times. Fate would have him chance upon a baby fox, which utters nary a sound, which he likens to be in a similar situation as himself - abandoned.

Again by chance, Taichi and his new found friend encounters a veterinarian (Takao Osawa) and her daughter (Ryoko Kobayashi), the former quite reluctant to accept the baby fox for treatment, constantly reminded that he should not allow his kind heart to rule over their need for some serious dough to keep his business from folding. Convincing the vet to allow Helen the baby fox to stay and receive treatment, Taichi works on the farm to pay off his dues. And thus began a friendship amongst the clinic, and with the many other adorable animals living on the clinic grounds.

The movie seemed to have two contrasting facades, and employed different techniques to highlight the different phases, as the relationship between animal and boy strengthened. The imaginary world from Taichi's mind, enhanced by special effects, gets transitioned (and conveniently forgotten) as the story moved towards a more serious "real-world" and the issues at hand with regards to the fox. Things change as the boy becomes more assertive and responsible as he takes on the surrogate guardian role, and the fox, being given a new lease of life from one without hope.

Fans of Crying Out Loud in the Center of the World, would come to recognize Takao Osawa, who plays the vet here. You got to give it to the Japanese for the many picturesque landscape shots which provided beautiful dreamworld like scenarios in making the countryside so enticing. And trust them too in activating the tear ducts of those with gentle hearts.

There are veiled attempts to subtly add in messages like thou-shalt-not-abandon-animals-or-your-kids, etc, but I guess if you don't buy in, you just don't. The pacing of the movie is relatively slow, perhaps deliberately too, but the ending just dragged, unfortunately. A victim of the multiple ending syndrome, I suppose it got worse as character relationships are suddenly revealed too little too soon without a warning in sight, which probably could have distracted the audience as it was disjointed and too convenient to be plausible.

Oh well. All in all, it's a movie suitable for the whole family. One without the summer blockbuster violence, scary images, swearing and the likes. Just plain wholesome.

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