Oh, Grow Up Already; 'Paprika' Is a Delicious Animated Film-For Adults. Why Can't Americans Stop All Their Mickey Mouse Stuff?
Ansen, David, Newsweek
Byline: David Ansen
This Friday "Shrek the Third" will swagger into theaters, its eye on the prize of seizing its predecessor's crown as the most successful animated film in history. A few days later, with far less fanfare, "Paprika," the work of Japanese anime master Satoshi Kon, will also be unveiled. It happens to be one of the most wildly (and disturbingly) inventive animated films I've seen, but will anyone notice? Unlike "Shrek," it's not conceived as fun for the whole family. "Paprika" is made for grown-ups.
Great animated movies, of course, obliterate the distinction between adult and kids' movies: think of Pixar's brilliant "Toy Story" movies, Miyazaki's peerless "Spirited Away," the "Wallace and Gromit" shorts or the sassy and ebullient first "Shrek"--all of them marketed to kids, but only adults can savor them on all levels. Yet in this country we think of animation only as child's play. Is it because cartoons colonized our little minds when we were kids, and so will always be consigned to a realm whose deities are named Mickey and SpongeBob? Is it because we consider the fantastical to be less "mature" than realism? Is it simply because there is more profit in movies that reach the widest demographic? Whatever the reason, to find an animated feature that isn't "family entertainment" you have to go outside the mainstream to Richard Link-later's experiments in morphing live actors into animated figures in "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly." Neither made a dime, no doubt confirming Hollywood's bias against breaking the animation mold.
There's no reason the imaginative freedom that animation allows shouldn't be unleashed on adult themes, especially when graphic novels have entered the literary mainstream and when CGI has blurred the line between live action and animation in films like "300." Outside the United States, animators are not so likely to be confined to the ghetto of kiddie movies. Think of the marvelously macabre French hand-drawn gem "The Triplets of Belleville," or the work of the Czech director Jan Svankma-jer ("Alice," "Faust"). Or, most conspicuously, Japanese anime, which is as likely to be made for 30-year-olds as for tots.
These questions ran through my mind as I watched the new "Shrek" and "Paprika. …