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Directed by Satoshi Kon.
Written by Satoshi Kon and Seishi Minakami.  Based on the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  6/20/07


"Paprika" is probably going to be the wackiest film I see in 2007; imagine some mix of "Jacob's Ladder", "The Matrix" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", but on speed and, well, Japanese.  And, there you have it!

Here's the best I can come up with in terms of what the plot of "Paprika" is--a team of scientists has developed a tool (one that, naturally, is still in "the testing phases") that helps the user manipulate and play back their dreams, as well as allow other people into their dreams if they also have the device, which is called the DC Mini.  When a terrorist takes control of the technology and begins to mess with everyone's minds, the dreams take on the scary reality that the real-life person is actually affected by the result of the dreams in their real-world state, meaning that if you die in the dream, you might actually be dead in real life, too.  The only hope the scientists have is the in-dream persona of Paprika, who is really one of the scientist's alter ego, who has become very good at adapting to the dream state in order to make her way through the world to affect change in the positive.

Okay, so that's kinda what the plot is, and then in terms of the characters, because you are constantly flipping between the real world and the dream world, the dialogue is some of the absolutely weirdest shit ever.  There are many points in "Paprika" will characters will say things like

"The power of the laundry machine will save the world!" or

"I was obsessed with the robot, because I was never sure when the frogs would start playing the trombone!!"

and you are sitting there wondering, wow, how could anyone come up with dialogue so off the wall?  But, it works in a way here, because everything else is so fucking  "Paprika" is just a wild, wild dreamscape, one where anything is possible and to back that up, almost everything happens at some point to keep you on edge.  The film--100% animated, with English subtitles--looks great, and the artist work here is both surreal and very scary at times...none more so than play dolls grown to dinosaur sizes with faces that just look spooky.

The film is so weird that it at times feels intentionally weird, which strangely is a problem at times; I've mentioned the dialogue, but how that affects the film's sense of humor is a bigger issue for me, because at times, the stuff is so whacked out that you don't know whether to laugh or not, because sometimes, you just don't know if the scene is set in the real world or the dream world.  (This gets worse as the movie goes along because at one point, the dream world crosses over into the real world.  Yeah.)  I'm not saying that the film gets cheap, per se; no, it's just that the film is so apeshit that I think by the 75-minute mark it both helps and hurts the cause.

Otherwise, I thought that "Paprika" was great, a film that truly fits outside the box but is a fun thrill ride nevertheless.  I wonder if American audiences will take to this one...

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09