Before I watched this movie, I heard from someone who have watched it before that this movie is too sentimental and tries too deliberately to get tears out of the audience, not worth watching. But since I have already rented it, I watched it anyway and it turned out not as bad as I expected. The movie may be very predictable but it has a heart. It's just a story that confirms that love can be felt, even by the animal. Taichi, the boy, loves this baby fox very much. And somehow, the fox knows it and tried to live on despite its disability. They have only a few weeks to spend together but it was precious. OK, I have to say that the movie has many flaws but it did warm my heart. I don't think it was a waste of time watching it. The scenery was breathtaking right from the beginning, the boy's performance was natural, the baby fox (and the dog and other pets) is so adorable, and the story is beautiful. I know that some will find it "too sweet", but honestly, I still have to say this is a good movie for your children, and for you if you're someone who felt moved by just the sight of a baby animal. But if you're those that really can't stand tear-jerking scenes and sentimental story, then don't watch this one.
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Leaving school for the day, seven-year old Taichi finds a baby fox alongside a road in rural Hokkaido. The two bond, and Taichi decides to leave the fox with the police as a lost item. The policeman on duty takes a reluctant Taichi and the fox to the local Yajima Veterinary Clinic. It turns out that Taichi has begun to live with Ko, the vet, and his teenage daughter Misuzu after his free-spirited mother Ritsuko has gone to Micronesia to work as a photographer. Many people have abandoned animals with Ko, and paying customers are few with most of his income coming from frequently boarding a friendly dog that is almost part of the family. Taichi feels abandoned as well, and clashes with Ko when the vet sees the new arrival as a burden, especially after discovering that the fox is deaf and blind. However, Taichi names it Helen after Helen Keller and attempts to bring her back to full health while teaching her about the world as sort of a young Annie Sullivan. Even though Taichi gets her to eat, Helen suffers increasing fits stemming from her damaged brain.
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A heartwarming story for animal lovers and children
A Nutshell Review: Helen the Baby Fox
Helen the Baby Fox belongs to the family of movies which feature cutesy animals and the relationship with their human protectors, along the lines of movies such as Lassie and Free Willy. Interesting enough, the subject of a fox (besides fox vixens in many Chinese folk tales) actually is a novelty in itself, and having bestowed upon him disabilities adequately fueled plenty of heartwrenching moments.
A young schoolboy, Taichi (Arashi Fukasawa),is a social outcast in school, with his vivid imagination he uses to spins incredible tales from. But these are the exact same fairytale-like stories which his mother (Yasuko Matsuyuki) spins for him, as she gallivants to far out locations for her photography fix, leaving the boy alone for most times. Fate would have him chance upon a baby fox, which utters nary a sound, which he likens to be in a similar situation as himself - abandoned.
Again by chance, Taichi and his new found friend encounters a veterinarian (Takao Osawa) and her daughter (Ryoko Kobayashi),the former quite reluctant to accept the baby fox for treatment, constantly reminded that he should not allow his kind heart to rule over their need for some serious dough to keep his business from folding. Convincing the vet to allow Helen the baby fox to stay and receive treatment, Taichi works on the farm to pay off his dues. And thus began a friendship amongst the clinic, and with the many other adorable animals living on the clinic grounds.
The movie seemed to have two contrasting facades, and employed different techniques to highlight the different phases, as the relationship between animal and boy strengthened. The imaginary world from Taichi's mind, enhanced by special effects, gets transitioned (and conveniently forgotten) as the story moved towards a more serious "real-world" and the issues at hand with regards to the fox. Things change as the boy becomes more assertive and responsible as he takes on the surrogate guardian role, and the fox, being given a new lease of life from one without hope.
Fans of Crying Out Loud in the Center of the World, would come to recognize Takao Osawa, who plays the vet here. You got to give it to the Japanese for the many picturesque landscape shots which provided beautiful dreamworld like scenarios in making the countryside so enticing. And trust them too in activating the tear ducts of those with gentle hearts.
There are veiled attempts to subtly add in messages like thou-shalt-not-abandon-animals- or-your-kids, etc, but I guess if you don't buy in, you just don't. The pacing of the movie is relatively slow, perhaps deliberately too, but the ending just dragged, unfortunately. A victim of the multiple ending syndrome, I suppose it got worse as character relationships are suddenly revealed too little too soon without a warning in sight, which probably could have distracted the audience as it was disjointed and too convenient to be plausible.
Oh well. All in all, it's a movie suitable for the whole family. One without the summer blockbuster violence, scary images, swearing and the likes. Just plain wholesome.
Feel Good Movie
I'm pretty sure those who want to watch this movie will go for two things; cute little Helen the fox or the Handsome Takao Osawa. For me, what caught my attention about the movie was the ending theme song for the movie; Taiyo no Shita by the Remioromen which was suited the feel good atmosphere about the movie. (Saw the trailer and the music was the instant draw for me to the movie) A poor boy who is left behind by his mother who in pursuit of her own ambition, encounters a little fox after school one day. The two seem to have an interesting chemistry, forged because they are seen as "abandoned" by those who should be rightfully taking care of them.
The little fox herself (as she was named as Helen later) is a disabled one. Without the right care, you would expect her to fall prey to the surrounding dangers. Yet, the kindness of one little boy led to a completely different fate, one which will leave you smiling when you walk out of the cinema at the end.
I would recommend it for anyone who loves animal or if you're looking for a movie that has a lesson to be learnt at the end. A simple story that speaks in volume about the importance of caring for someone. If there was a movie that Disney wants to adopt into an American version ... I'm guessing this one has a shot.
Oh yah, forgot to mention this, the soundtrack is pretty good too. Aside from the song i mentioned at the beginning, the instrumental soundtrack is well done, and you will remember it for the visuals that accompany the music. I personally enjoyed it for more the audio experience, but that's just me. :)