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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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.
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Insults include "stupid," "jerk," and "shut up."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mr. Yamada is shown smoking a cigarette in a few of the vignettes.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It's not for everybody, but fans of Studio Ghibli animation should definitely check out MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS for something a little different. 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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.