Mary and Max Blu-ray/DVD

Studio: IFC Films

Jun 24, 2010 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Mary and Max was the opening night film of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, the first animated movie to ever hold that position. Despite this, Adam Elliot's "clayography" never reached the wider audience it so deserved. Emotionally appealing animated movies, such as Pixar's Up, Wes Anderson's hilarious Fantastic Mr. Fox, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey's The Secret of Kelis, and Henry Selick's Coraline, may have roped hype during Oscar season, but this simply engaging film deserved to be on the same pedestal.

Director Elliot and producer Melanie Coombs also crafted the Academy Award-winning animated short Harvie Krumpet. Both it and this movie share a dry sense of wit and stinging moments of drama. The latter makes this not exactly ideal for youngsters to watch, but mature tweens and teens will enjoy its warm aura of candor and wit. The peculiar story revolves around two social outcasts/pen pals. One lives in Australia (Mary Daisy Dinkle) and the other in New York City (Max Horowitz). They both enjoy strange foods (i.e. chocolate hot dogs) and aren't too fond of their families or neighbors. Where Krumpet was sometimes too quirky for its own good, Elliot's new tale is more restrained and the dramatic elements tend to balance the outright silliness.

The technical aspects of the film are equally appealing. No computer effects were used, even for the city scenes and the rain. Also, the vocal casting is stellar. Young Mary is thoughtfully voiced by Bethany Whitmore and Philip Seymour Hoffman lends Max's life battling Asperger's syndrome a poetic resonance. Eric Bana plays Damian Cyril Popodopolous, Mary's neighbor and romantic interest and Toni Colette deftly takes over as adult Mary when the world crumbles at her feet. (Note: Don't expect a jovial ending.) As with many of Elliot's unusually crude through-lines, Mary and Max is bursting with taut and detailed chracterizations. The narrator, voiced by Willian McInnes, speaks about the melancholic protagonists' loves and defeats in equal turn.

When the third act rolls around, you may be fighting back tears. This makes total sense since Elliot notes in the criminally slim DVD bonus features that the movie is based on a true story. In fact, the Australian filmmaker has also enjoyed a 20-year pen pal relationship with a New Yorker who, like Max, has Asperger's syndrome. Likewise, Mary and Max's art imitates life in beautiful and tender ways. (www.maryandmax.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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