Fantastic high-flying adventure from Miyazaki!
JTurner - wrote on 05/31/09
Arguably one of Miyazaki's most accessible works, CASTLE IN THE SKY (renamed from the Japanese title, LAPUTA, since it's a bad word in Spanish) follows two young orphans struggling to find the titular structure (which is nonetheless pronounced "Lah-pyu-tah" in Disney's dub). They are helped by air pirates (commanded by aging yet fearless Dola) and opposed by government (manipulated by evil agent Muska). Miyazaki established his now famous animation company Studio Ghibli to produce this movie. While this wasn't one of his more financially successful films, it nonetheless has earned legions of fans for its appealing characters, breathtaking (for its time) animation, and fresh serving of action and flight sequences that may make one giddy. There are also some elements of sci-fi, particularly the seemingly menacing but honorable robots who guard Laputa's peaceful gardens. What really makes CASTLE IN THE SKY is the musical score by Joe Hisaishi--it's phenomenal, matching every image on the screen to perfection. Interestingly, for the dub, Hisaishi was commissioned to rework (and extend) his music for a full performance by symphony orchestra. While hardcore fans declared this as blasphemy (and some still do), Miyazaki applauded Hisaishi's efforts. There are several places, of course, where the new score isn't always necessary (the travel through the storm cloud, for instance), but the overall quality of this rescore is amazingly good, and in many ways adds to the film, particularly in the dramatic scenes toward the end. As for the rest of the dub, yes, it is talkier than its Japanese counterpart (included on the DVD) and the otherwise decent leads (James Van Der Beek and Anna Paquin) sound a tad too old, however, the aforementioned rescore and the lively supporting cast cancel those minor flaws out. In particular, Cloris Leachman's Dola and especially Mark Hamill's Muska are absolutely superb and have all the best moments. (Equally noteworthy are the pirate trio of Mandy Patinkin, Andy Dick, and Mike McShane, Richard Dysart as the kindly Uncle Pom, and voiceover guru Jim Cummings as the General.) The translation is a bit loose in places, but it's faithful in spirit overall. Whatever language you choose to watch CASTLE IN THE SKY in, though, you'll still be experiencing a wonderful adventure tale from Japan's greatest animator.