Star Rating:

From Up On Poppy Hill

Director: Goro Miyazaki

Actors: Anton Yelchin, Sarah Bolger, Christina Hendricks

Release Date: Monday 30th November -0001

Genre(s): Animation

Running time: 91 minutes

A Studio Ghibli release is a nice calm respite during the blockbuster season with the likes of busy and noisy Smurfs 2 and Planes floating about; you'll find no lemur-type animal shaking its booty to Reel To Reel's greatest moment in the latest offering from those who brought you Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo and Spirited Away.

Umi (Nagasawa) is a teenage girl who has assumed the role of mother in a boarding house made up of her grandmother, sister and brother, cooking and cleaning while attending the local academy. It's here that she runs into the handsome Shun, a writer for the school paper and at the forefront of keeping the school's historical clubhouse - think a massive five-story fraternity house - open despite pressure from the school board to shut it down in favour of a new and polished version. Could Shun be the boy who is printing poems about her in the paper?

From Up On Poppy Hill boasts again those beautiful hand-drawn visuals which are the studio's calling card, but the story feels culled from outside influences, a mishmash of American high school and college comedies, and in particular those that were reminiscent of the 50s and 60s. It's a rose-tinted retrospective of a more innocent time where elders are respected, no one back-talks and the most you can expect from a girl is holding hands. Yeah, you're definitely guaranteed no sing-alongs with lemurs who like to move it here. And let's be thankful that Ghibli are here to offer an entertaining alternative.

Written by Hayao Miyazaki (writer-director of Ghibli's aforementioned greatest) and directed by his son, Goro, From Up On Poppy Hill charms with its sweet tale of first love, but the decision to moves things into a darker shade to complicate matters later on is a puzzling and confusing one; even Shun remarks that the unexpected developments ‘feel like some cheap melodrama.' Whether it's cheap melodrama or basic familiarity, the romance doesn't engage like it should but those seeking shelter from the full-on exploits of Disney and DreamWorks should check it out.

The English version utilises the voices of Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin and Christina Hendricks.