My Neighbors The Yamadas

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Rating: PG

Starring:
James Belushi as Takashi
Tress MacNeille as Shige
Liliana Mumy as Nonoko
Daryl Sabara as Noboru
Molly Shannon as Matsuko
David Ogden Stiers as Narrator

Special Features:
Original Storyboards

Trailers

Behind the Microphone with Voice Talent from the Film

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Japanese Language
Running Time: 104 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was originally released in Japan in 1999 under the name “Houhokekyo tonari no Yamada-kun”. The following is from the DVD cover:

“Join in the adventures of the quirky Yamada family — from the hilarious to the touching — brilliantly presented in a unique, visually striking comic strip style. Takashi Yamada and his wacky wife Matsuko, who has no talent for housework, navigate their way through the ups and downs of work, marriage, and family life with a sharp-tongued grandmother who lives with them, a teenage son who wishes he had cooler parents, and a pesty daughter whose loud voice is unusual for someone so small. Even the family dog has issues! Experience the little victories in life with My Neighbor the Yamadas — featuring the voice talents of comedic stars Jim Belushi and Molly Shannon.”

My Neighbors The Yamadas is rated PG for mild thematic elements.

The Movie:
One of the most notable things about My Neighbors The Yamadas is the very simplistic animation. It looks like little more than sketches from a newspaper comic. However, on occasion, a fantasy sequence will come along and the basic animation gets a little CG enhancement. The resulting effect is quite impressive as the family shoots through the sky in a bobsled or braves the oceans on a pirate ship. Unfortunately, the animation soon reverts to the very basic style and over time it gets to be a little bit old.

This movie is made up of a series of short stories. Each one features the family facing a minor, everyday crisis. It’s not quite as biting or satirical as The Simpsons, but it’s not as tame as a lot of your 50’s family sitcoms. It’s kind of a Japanese Everybody Loves Raymond. Every once in a while it’s quite funny and it manages to pull out a few clever jokes. However, for much of the film it’s rather slow. The resulting effect is that My Neighbors The Yamadas is best taken in small doses no longer than the short stories themselves.

The voice casting for the film is very well done. James Belushi stars as Takashi, the beleaguered dad of the Yamada family. He’s a lot like Ralph Kramden in personality and mannerisms. Molly Shannon plays Matsuko, the mother. She’s a little ditzy, but holds the family together. Animation voice legend Tress MacNeille plays Shige, the cranky grandmother who usually manages to say the worst things at the worst times. Liliana Mumy plays the daughter Nonoko and Spy Kid Daryl Sabara plays Noboru. Finally, David Ogden Stiers takes on the role of Narrator.

The Extras:
Besides the original Japanese storyboards and the trailers, there’s a behind the scenes feature that interviews the actors for the English dub of My Neighbors The Yamadas. Jim Belushi, Molly Shannon (who is very pregnant), Liliana Mumy, and Daryl Sabara all appear talking about their characters and why the show appeals to them. You also see behind the scenes footage of them recording some of the dialogue.

The Bottom Line:
Since this film isn’t all that funny and the animation is a bit too stylized for the tastes of general American audiences, I would really only recommend My Neighbors The Yamadas to animation fans.

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