Mary and Max 2009 (80 Minutes Claymation Animated Rated PG)
Featuring the voices of; Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana, Barry Humphries, Bethany Whitmore, Renée Geyer and Ian 'Molly' Meldrum
I'm not quite sure what I was expecting from this claymation adventure when I sat down to watch it with the kids. Somehow I think I was expecting the sort of slapstick associated normally associated with Wallace and Gromit.
I certainly didn't expect the serious, emotive and thought-provoking material that was eventually delivered. In fact, the film was so serious in parts that I began my "30 second censorship countdown".
In Short, the story concerns a little girl who lives in Australia and who has domestic issues which affect her circle of friends. She selects an unlikely pen-friend named Max, who lives in New York and who has aspergers with severe anxiety issues. The film deals with how their letters and thoughts affect each other and the right and wrong choices they make.
I'm quite relaxed with censorship around my kids (aged 6 and 9). They've watched some fairly gory stuff (Aliens, The Passion) and some things with adult concepts and language (South Park - the word-censored tv version, not the movie). One of the few things gets me thinking about censorship is repeatable dangerous behaviour (the sort of thing you see on Jackass). The 30 second countdown says that if I feel uncomfortable and the situation doesn't change within 30 seconds then it gets turned off.
I initiated the 30 second censorship countdown but the disturbing scene was over long before I completed it.
Make no mistake. This is no "Wallace and Grommit" film. The characters have real emotions, some of which (depression) are quite strongly realized. Watch this film yourself before deciding whether to let your kids watch it.
The Comedy Factor
The humour in this film is mostly slapstick plus a bit of narrative contradiction. The narrator says one thing and the characters do the opposite.
It's certainly a laugh-out-loud film at times but not consistently. The comedy gives way to the story and at times it gets quite serious. Weirdly enough, my kids found their biggest laughs whenever Max's goldfish died. Some of the more obvious aspie humour, such as the "take a seat" example, went completely over their heads.
The film is mostly done in greys though every now and then a bright colour, generally red, breaks through.
What the Film Says about the Spectrum
(beware - possible spoilers in this section)
Probably the most amazing thing about this film is the way it covers aspergers. It kept surprising me. Initially I just expected Max to be an aspie-like character without any sign of a formal diagnosis (like Napoleon Dynamite) but the film goes on to not only say the word "Aspergers" but also give a potted explanation of what it means.
Later in the film, it takes a drastic turn in a direction which will horrify viewers. I really wasn't expecting this but the point that the film makes is a very good one and it's well worth sitting through a bit of unpleasantness for.
Mary and Max is an interesting, funny and thought-provoking film about Aspergers, isolation and chocolate and it gets a very high recommendation from me. Go see it!
Links to the Film
What the Rotten Tomatoes Critics are Saying: 90%
Internet Movie Database Entry