My Neighbor Totoro

Troma is the nation’s leading stock house of horror-comedies -- films filled with levels of gore and nudity the word “gratuitous” doesn’t even come close to describing. Disney is an international conglomerate specializing in all things marketable and cute. The one film released by both is Hayao Miyazaki’s 1988 masterpiece of animation My Neighbor Totoro, often deemed the Japanese Alice in Wonderland.

The film goes to show how far anime has come in the American mainstream: Its first U.S. release was a side project for a bunch of film freaks, and its second was a lush digital remastering with the Seal of the Mouse stamped onto it. Totoro, screening today as part of Rice University’s Asian Film Festival, is about two sisters who move to the countryside to be near the rural clinic treating their dying mother. (Japanese filmmakers have a strange way of comfortably crossing the emotionally heavy with the cutesy.) In the woods, they discover a myriad of magical creatures, including Totoro, a wobbly combination of troll and owl. There’s also a group of white rabbits with a penchant for hiding, and Catbus, a giant feline whose insides resemble a furry Amtrak interior. (He’s become as recognizable to Japanese children as Shrek is to American kids.) A film that’s both 100 percent family-friendly and eye-popping to anyone interested in animation, Totoro is recommended for all audiences. 3:30 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-439-0051 or visit $5 to $6
Sun., Feb. 10, 3:30 p.m., 2008

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Nick Keppler