My Neighbors the Yamadas

 
(i)

 

Quirky animated comedy follows a family's ups and downs.
  • Review Date: January 5, 2012
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 104 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

This isn't an educational film, but kids may show an interest in different forms of animation after seeing it. It also teaches the importance of family unity, especially in times of trouble.

Positive messages

The movie is all about how a family can survive the many daily challenges they face, no matter how annoyed and exasperated they get with each other. It also provides an example of a multi-generational family.

Positive role models

Grandmother is a feisty, opinionated woman who's candid and clever. Mrs. Yamada isn't the best housekeeper or cook, but she's still a good mother who worries and watches over her kids. Mr. Yamada is often grumpy, but when it's time to save his family, he rises to the occasion. Nonoko is mischievous but kind, and even Noboru, who usually wishes his parents were "normal" is thankful for his family in the end.

Violence & scariness

Some children may find the segment when Nonoko is left behind at the mall frightening, although she's calm about the situation. In another sequence, the family has a run in with bikers who drag off Mrs. Yamada and her elderly grandmother, until they're rescued by a heroic biker.

Sexy stuff

In one segment, Noboru shares an umbrella with a girl and is then teased about it; when she calls him at home, he blushes and his mother and grandmother are convinced he's "in love." The grandmother's friend thinks two people in the hospital are "fooling around" and having an affair. They are shown cuddling and smooching. Mr. and Mrs. Yamada usually bicker, but they embrace every now and then.

Language

Insults include "stupid," "jerk," and "shut up."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Mr. Yamada is shown smoking a cigarette in a few of the vignettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that unlike other Studio Ghibli productions, which are in the Japanese anime style, this one is all minimalist, cartoon-strip animation. The movie follows a multi-generational family of five in several short episodes focused on a specific theme or particular family member. Some kids may be disturbed when Nonoko is accidentally left behind at a mall and when bikers briefly threaten the family, leading to a motorcycle chase. The language occasionally includes quick insults like "stupid" or "shut up," and the father is shown smoking cigarettes in a couple of stories. Although there's no romance, there are references to Noboru's first crush and a gossipy conversation between the grandmother and her friend about a possible affair.

Parents say

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What's the story?

Meet the Yamadas, a kooky family of five: impatient father Takashi (voiced by James Belushi), frazzled mom Matsuko (Molly Shannon), easily embarrassed son Noboru (Daryl Sabara), mischievous daughter Nonoko (Liliana Mumy), and feisty grandmother Shige (Tress MacNeille). In several short vignettes, the family deals with dramas large (accidentally leaving Nonoko behind at a mall; Shige realizing her good friend is hospitalized) and small (kids leaving their homework; Matsuko not knowing what to make for dinner; Noboru experiencing his first crush) with their own comical flair.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

If this were a television series with just one or two short stories an episode, it would be easy to marvel at the spare animation and fully immerse yourself in the Yamadas' sitcom-meets-Japanese-family foibles. But strung together in a 1 hour-and-45-minute-long film, the various stories start to drag, even though individually they're compelling and humorous. Children (and adults) with short attention spans may only be able to watch a couple of stories before wanting to reach for the fast-forward button. Those willing to stick it out, however, will be treated to a unique look at the ups and downs of family life.

The English-dubbed version features familiar voice actors, like Belushi and Shannon, who are entertaining as the bickering parents. Simpsons veteran MacNeille (who's responsible for several characters, including Mrs. Skinner, Brandine, and Lindsay Naegle) is especially notable for evoking how simultaneously curmudgeonly and clever the grandmother is in all the segments. Although it's strange at first to see a Studio Ghibli film that isn't anime, the watercolor palette and minimalist style is perfectly befitting the family's quirks. It's not for everybody, but fans of the Japanese animation studio should definitely check out MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS for something a little different.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how different the animation and storytelling technique is in this movie than most animated films.

  • How does this movie compare to Studio Ghibli's other movies? Do you prefer the Studio Ghibli movies featuring one central protagonist, or do you like this whole-family approach?

  • Unlike most kid-friendly movies, this is a more episodic story than a continuous beginning-middle-end plot. Is it harder to sustain interest in a movie where there are several shorts rather than one plotline?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 17, 1999
DVD release date:August 16, 2005
Cast:James Belushi, Molly Shannon, Tress MacNeille
Director:Isao Takahata
Studio:Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Brothers and sisters
Run time:104 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:for mild thematic elements.

This review of My Neighbors the Yamadas was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 16 years old Written bychinchillaboy26 August 2, 2012
 

Wonderful Studio Ghibli film fine for kids--but they might be bored

All right, the only reason I said pause for 7 and under is not because of inappropriate content. There are only two very minor things that parents might have reason to be concerned about: 1. Noboru, the teenager, talks with his classmates about getting the new "swimsuit edition" and then is shown in the bookstore looking at a book among others labeled "nude" and "girls." Nothing is shown, and it's not intended to be offensive. 2. Takashi, the father, occasionally smokes and drinks and in one scene gives his teenage son a sip of sakke. Again, it's nothing big (Noboru comments "too dry" and his parents become enraged). The reason I wouldn't recommend showing it to little kids is that I don't know if they'd enjoy it. The humor in some parts is funnier if the viewer is familiar with Japanese culture, and although it's animated like a comic strip, it's very much still an anime style and there are quiet, drawn-out, reflective moments occasionally. Most of the film is intended to be funny--think of it as a Japanese "Peanuts" with focus on the whole family rather than just the kids--but the kids might miss the humor and think it's a snoozefest. I loved the film, I think it's underappreciated, but my fifteen-year-old brother watched it with me and said it was a horrible movie. Basically, I'd recommend it, but most little kids would probably enjoy Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, or Castle in the Sky more.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 10 years old July 3, 2012
 

Not one of Takahata's best work.

If you really want to see it, Just go on Netflix. To me, NOT WORTH OUR MONEY OR TIME!!!
What other families should know
Great role models

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