(it) wrote: It's Possible to Be Quarrelsome but Still Loving Calling the Yamadas "dysfunctional" is overstating the case a bit, I think. They seemed like a perfectly ordinary family, for the most part. Oh, there was bickering, and they have the standard problems people do with work and school and so forth. They don't even always like each other very often, and you can sympathize with each outburst declaring the rest of them to be obnoxious, legally insane, or any other insult used. However, dysfunctional implies that there is no salvaging the family, that any way the family works is sheer happenstance and that they'd be better off apart. I did not find that to be the case here. They all needed something from each other that they weren't quite getting, but I think everyone is happier with each other than they would be alone, which is one of my questions of any relationship; if you're not happier with the other than you would be alone, you ought to be alone, and I don't think the Yamadas should be. The Yamadas are a perfectly ordinary Japanese family. Takashi (Jim Belushi, and yes, I did the Disney dub again) and Matsuko (Molly Shannon) live with her mother, Shige Yamano (Tress MacNeille), and their two kids. Noboru (Daryl Sabara) is about thirteen. He is working hard in school but not doing terribly well, and there's a girl he likes who isn't much interested in him. Nonoko (Liliana Mumy) is about five and is pretty much the only one who is never irritating. The movie is a series of vignettes in the family's life. We see Takashi's issues at work. Noboru at school. Matsuko and Shige at home. The time they all accidentally left Nonoko at the mall. There's not much that you can really call a plot. Some of the stories are vaguely strung together, but only vaguely. It's bookended by Noboru's bewilderment about how he ever ended up with such a family, and it shows us that they mostly deserve each other. Apparently, this is a movie based on a comic strip from Japan. Kind of like the Japanese equivalent of those [i]Peanuts[/i] specials we all used to watch as kids. And in order to keep the visual style of the original comic, it became the first Studio Ghibli movie to be computer animated. The visual style is spare. It seems to be a series of sketches, a storyboard animated without much added to it. Some things are basically filled in as scribbles. The trailers which come on the DVD aren't even all in colour; they're just line drawings. The Yamadas aren't anything approaching realistically drawn. They are more blobs than anything. There is one scene, where Takashi confronts some bikers, that is in a much more realistic style, but once Matsuko and Shige arrive, we are back to the original style. Back in the Yamadas' world. It has little or nothing to do with other Ghibli movies, but it fits the general style of the movie as a whole for all that. It feels right. While it's not as deep as most other Ghibli work, it's extremely funny. Even Graham, who wasn't as pleased with it as I, laughed several times. There is a sequence where each member of the family forgets several things, including Noboru's bursting back into the house after forgetting his books and declaring that he has also forgotten to remove his pajamas. When the family forgets Nonoko at the mall--they were quarreling and she was asleep--she meets another child whose mother has wandered off, and she cheerfully finds a cashier who will help him. When the cashier asks if the boy is lost, Nonoko says that, no, his mommy is. However, her entire family is lost. Though she seems quite confident that they'll come back for her. There is a delightful ballet as Takashi tries to prevent Matsuko from changing the channel; her movie is starting, and his baseball game is not yet over. Only it's not quite a ballet; it's martial arts. Noboru's difficulty with girls is mocked by all the women of his family. As I said, the family also very clearly loves one another. The segments are set off by excerpts of Japanese poetry, read in the dub by David Ogden Stiers. This adds even greater poignancy to certain of the moments. There's a beautiful scene where Takashi tries to get the whole family to join him and take a picture out in the snow, but they're too busy watching a movie--one they've seen before--on TV. However, there is also a scene where Takashi calls from the station, having forgotten to bring an umbrella. No one wants to walk to take one to him, so Matsuko suggests that he just buy one--oh, and while he's at the store, can he pick up some meat? At first, he isn't going to, because he's so annoyed by the whole thing, but he relents. And as he is on his way home, he sees his wife and children walking toward him, bringing him an umbrella after all. This is sweeter if you get that particular cultural significance, but even if you don't know the meaning of couples sharing an umbrella in Japanese tradition, it's still sweet.