DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    Brittany Snow as SHIZUKU TSUKISHIMA
    David Gallagher as SEIJI
    Courtney Thorne-Smith as SHIHO TSUKISHIMA
    Cary Elwes as THE BARON
    Harold Gould as NISHI
    Abigail Mavity as NAO

    Rated G
    Studio: Disney/Studio Ghibli

    Directed by: Yoshifumi Kondo
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The most interesting thing about “Whisper of the Heart” is the choice to make it an animated feature. Yes, it is based on a comic book, but the reasons to make it animated just aren’t there. “Whisper of the Heart” could have easily been shot in the live-action format and retained almost every part of it.

Usually, animated features have some element that makes them more sensible than a live-action version. The classic example are the Disney films with talking animals. Imagine trying to shoot “Bambi” in the 1940s with real animals.

However, “Whisper of the Heart” is a completely grounded story, almost void of the fantasy elements that are so familiar in the films from Studio Ghibli. I think the marketing folks at Disney realize this, which is why they take a shot from a short-lived fantasy sequence to decorate the back cover of the DVD. This sequence tells a short story of the Baron, whom some might recognize as the Cat in “The Cat Returns.”

This fantasy sequence augments the story, but the film is much more about the journey of a young girl as she learns about love and loss. “Whisper of the Heart” tells the story of Shizuku (Brittany Snow), a schoolgirl wrestling with where her life is taking her. Her family wants her to study for high-school entrance exams, but she would much rather read fairy tales and write music.

Shizuku befriends Seiji (David Gallagher), a boy from a different class who inspires her to follow her dreams. Seiji’s dream is to be a master violin maker, and Shizuku helps him follow that dream as well.

I didn’t necessarily dislike “Whisper of the Heart,” but I was thrown off a bit. I put the film in expecting a bit of fantasy. Unfortunately, I was left with a coming-of-age story of a young girl. It may have touched me deeper if I saw it as a teenager. It has a certain outlook on the world that is rosier than the hand life deals us. It does have a certain degree of inspiration, but I am a little beyond that need. Yeah, that’s a selfish way to look at a film’s worth, but it’s the truth.

The DVD comes in a two-disc set with the original Japanese storyboards on the second disc. The first disc includes a “Behind the Microphone” segment with the English voice cast as well as trailers and television spots.

“Whisper of the Heart” is a sweet movie, and it does have a lot of heart. However, I just didn’t connect with the characters as I could have. Maybe it would have a greater effect on young girls going through the same struggles that Shizuku faces. That is a far more appropriate market for this movie.

Then again, maybe it’s because I’m an ignorant, piggish male who doesn’t understand the insight of the film.

Come to think of it, I’ll bet that last one’s the right answer.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Original Japanese language track. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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