Am I some kind of monster for not connecting with Studio Ghibli films? (Rhetorical question, don’t answer.) Obviously, I cannot deny the skillful animation and the detailed storytelling. But in regards to emotional connection, there seems to be some component I’m missing to access the depth of feeling to which others attest.
“The Red Turtle,” though not directed by the studio’s godfather, Hiyao Miyazaki, still lacks resonance for me. The nearly wordless 80-minute movie plays out like an even more pared down version of Robert Zemeckis’ “Cast Away.” A stranded protagonist takes out his anger and frustration at his situation on the titular reptile, which does not even appear in the film until about the 30-minute mark.
Director Michael Dudok De Wit crafted a highly representational film that definitely makes the case that animation is not just for kids (duh), although its fable-like simplicity makes a compelling case that the film need not be ghettoized to high-minded arthouse crowds alone. My issue lies not with the elemental aspects of “The Red Turtle;” indeed, these make for the film’s most impactful moments. Instead, it’s the thinness of the premise. De Wit’s story could easily sustain a short film. The power gets diluted as it stretches to fill feature-length. Tedium sets in between periods of appreciation – although for me, deep feeling accompanies neither of these sensations. B- /