Talk about Don’t Look Up.
The folks in Poupelle of Chimney Town (opening theatrically tomorrow) live in a world where thick smoke blocks the sky and has for so long that the populace doesn’t remember anything beyond it. Looking up isn’t a terribly satisfying experience, and the powers that be have gaslit the public into thinking that there’s nothing beyond that dark layer of yuck.
Most everyone buys into that … except Lubicchi, the son of a late chimney sweep. This Eddie Munster-looking tyke has grown up hearing his pop’s stories of the world beyond. When befriended by a creature made up of trash — think Oz’s Scarecrow after a dumpster dive — Lubicchi attempts to transcend this drab earthly existence for a glimpse of what’s beyond.
Akihiro Nishino’s script — adapted from his children’s book — offers an odd but interesting balance of the serious and the silly. There’s heavy emotional baggage created by the illness of his mother and the loss of Lubicchi’s father. At the same time, there’s also a really goofy earworm of a musical number celebrating Halloween.
This is a world beyond focus groups where such things can coexist.
I’m curious, now, if the original story in book form offered a more streamlined take on what could have been a delightful film. The film doesn’t seem to need the Klan-like villains, the battle-heavy climax or the eleventh-hour head-spinning injection of commentary about financial markets and something resembling cryptocurrency.
Even at its shrillest, the sadness suffered by Lubicchi as well as his just-wants-to-help trash pal Poupelle (voiced by Tony Hale in the dubbed version) is palpable, which adds both weight and drag to the film.
And while I was rooting for it the whole way, I have to admit overall disappointment. A bit overlong and overstuffed, Poupelle of Chimney Town is the kind of film that looks terrific in trailer form. It has its glowing heart in the right place and, like its hero, the filmmakers (led by Yusuke Hirota, one of the Shin Godzilla animators) reach for the stars.
I’m not someone who rates films celestially, but if I was, this one would, alas, only reach a few.