Looking outside at night and seeing the stars is something many of us take for granted, not even pausing to wonder about how they have inspired our ancestors, delighted children, and guided sailors for millennia. Even the most beautiful things can become mundane, until you stop to think about them. In the world of Poupelle of Chimney Town, instead of mundane, stars are mythical. With smoke covering the sky and turning the night black, no one in town has ever seen a star, and the government doesn’t want them to. Fortunately, our heroes love to dream big.
Poupelle of Chimney Town follows the titular Poupelle, a man with the heart of a fallen star and a body made of garbage from a landfill, as he becomes friends with Lubicchi, a young boy living in Chimney Town who is chasing the stories that his father left behind for him. Together, the two set out to unravel the mysteries of Chimney Town, see the stars, and prove to the townsfolk that there is indeed an outside world, contrary to what the government and their enforcers, the Inquisitors, would have people believe.
The plot is a sweet, heartfelt story about the friendship between Poupelle and Lubicchi, though there are massive plotholes if you stop and actually think about who’s doing what and why. The movie is drawn along by its emotional threads and relationships, which form a strong and compelling core. Despite any faults, you want to root for Poupelle and, more importantly, Lubicchi, to achieve their dreams, and it keeps you emotionally invested. Those looking for a strong plot that makes sense from start to finish will be disappointed to find many points that don’t quite make sense, but that the viewer is supposed to accept anyway.
The movie features a colorful cast of characters, with the earnest Poupelle and determined Lubicchi at the center. The quirky and motormouth miner Scooper adds a big dose of lightheartedness, and the camaraderie of Lubicchi’s fellow chimney sweeps helps to fill out his backstory and give the world itself depth. Special mention also goes to Bruno, the absent yet ever-present father of Lubicchi, who disappeared a year ago, but whose stories and bravery continue to impact his son. Rounding out the lineup, we also have Antonio and his friends, three school-age bullies of Lubicchi, his mother Lola, and Dennis Letter XV, the ruler of the strange and mysterious Chimney Town.
Led by Tony Hale and Antonio Raul Corbo as Poupelle and Lubicchi, the English cast is absolutely pitch-perfect, with emotional performances from all. Misty Lee’s performance as Lola is absolutely heartwrenching, and Kari Wahlgren shines, as always, performing the dynamic Dorothy. Special mention goes to Hasan Minhaj as Scooper, who I’m pretty sure delivered two whole minutes of enthusiastic dialogue without taking a single breath.
Visually, Poupelle of Chimney Town is an absolute treat. The aesthetic is a cross between steampunk and grimepunk and is very reminiscent of the Professor Layton series. This also extends to the characters, beautifully designed by Atsuko Fukushima. Each character is unique and quirky, and no two look quite the same, except of course for the copy-and-paste government inquisitors. Even the uniforms that the chimney sweeps wear have their own style and personality that shows visually. The wide camera shots give amazing views of the size and breadth of Chimney Town itself, showing the vast, complicated world where our heroes reside, and making the town feel like a character all on its own — which it almost is.
The music in the film is orchestral and beautiful, though the highlight is the decidedly non-sweeping but very much rocking opening number, “Halloween Party” by HYDE. It’s catchy, infectious, creepy, and fun, all rolled up into one and kickstarts the plot perfectly. My only complaint is that it makes me want more musical numbers in the film, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the planned Off-Broadway version of Poupelle for that.
Ultimately, Poupelle has a lot of heart and a lot of artistic and aesthetic flair to it. The relationships and emotions carry the film more so than the sometimes nonsensical plot, supported by an excellent English dub cast. If you’re looking for an interesting world with characters who you want to root for, and a quirky supporting cast, look no further than Poupelle of Chimney Town.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.
Disclosure: The critic received a screening link for ComingSoon’s Poupelle of Chimney Town review.