Tuesday, April 19, 2011

French Animation in English: Mia and the Migoo

If young Mia’s experiences are representative, most environmentalists are more inclined to squabble amongst themselves rather than to take constructive action. Fortunately, she is a resilient little girl, capable of finding her missing father and saving the planet essentially single-handedly in Jacques-Rémy Girerd’s Mia and the Migoo (trailer here), the best animated feature at the 2009 European Film Awards, which returns to the IFC Center for a special limited run in honor of “Earth Day,” whatever that might be.

At least Mia is a smashing role model for young girls. Seeing a vision of her father Pedro in jeopardy, Mia sets out to find him at his remote construction job. It turns out a series of suspicious accidents have plagued the work site. After the latest incident traps Pedro in a cave-in, the greedy developer is forced to take personal charge of the project, lest his investors back out. A spectacular island Eden, the proposed development might be last hospitable spot on the planet due to runaway “global warming” (or perhaps “climate change”). However, the Migoo, a race of thirty foot hive-mind giants, stands watch over the island, wrecking havoc on the workers.

There is no missing Migoo’s environmental message. Frankly, it is just too much, even for those sympathetic to its green agenda, because it truly drives every single scene. There are no musical numbers or comic relief sequences (aside from some Migoo bickering) to give the film time to establish its characters and allow them space to breathe.

Considering Girerd produced the thoroughly charming feature A Cat in Paris, which was the toast of this year’s New York International Children’s Film Festival, Migoo is somewhat disappointing. It has a similarly stylish look, particularly the island landscapes that often deliberately evoke Van Gogh. However, Zoe, the little girl protagonist of Cat has far more personality than Mia, despite her near complete lack of dialogue. Indeed, the priority placed on Migoo’s message seems to come at the expense of character.

To give due credit, Migoo has some admirable elements, such as its resourcefulness of its young lead character and its redemptive conclusion. Artfully rendered, but oh so heavy-handed, the English-dubbed Migoo opens around the country this Friday (4/22) to mark Earth Day (probably a traditional day of harvest celebration in Brittany) and screens again in New York this weekend (4/22-4/24) at the IFC Center.