Doraemon: The Movie: The Review
When it comes to the topic of Doraemon, the world’s population can be pretty cleanly separated into two groups of people: people who have never heard of Doraemon and people who live in an East Asian country. That’s because Doraemon is literally inescapable in his homeland of Japan and in many other places throughout East Asia. Created in 1970 by manga artist Hiroshi Fujimoto, Doraemon has grown from a simple black and white comic strip into a long-running television show, a series of annual movies and an extensive line of merchandise. In some ways, he is almost like the Japanese version of Mickey Mouse; he seems almost as widely recognized and plays a similar role as a cultural symbol.
The series follows the exploits of Doraemon, a robotic cat from the 22nd century and his owner, the schoolboy Nobita. As the story goes, Nobita is so lazy and incapable that he causes hardship for his future descendents. As a result, they send Doraemon to him from the future, in an attempt to assist Nobita and thereby increase the quality of their own lives (if my future descends are reading this, I would prefer something cooler like a robotic shark or alligator plzkthx). The television show usually finds Nobita getting himself into some kind of jam, only to be saved by either Doraemon’s time machine (located conveniently in Nobita’s desk drawer) or one of many futuristic gadgets (which Doraemon carries around in his seemingly bottomless kangaroo pouch).
Well, I watch the Doraemon television show from time to time and it’s fun to watch and pretty easy to follow even with my limited understanding of Japanese. So when I heard that the new Doraemon movie, Nobita’s Dinosaur (のび太の恐竜) would be coming out this month (to get technical, it’s not actually a new movie but rather, a remake of the first Doraemon movie from 1980), I thought it might be a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Unlike in America, seeing movies during the day in Japan is more expensive and late shows are cheaper. Since Doraemon, a children’s movie, does not play past 5:00 pm, we had to pay about $17 USD for tickets. At least this price was slightly offset by the plastic toy that was given to each ticket buyer as well as the fact that the movie is 2 hours long. While we were waiting for the film to start, a boy, who couldn’t have even been 6-years old, spat the words “You people won’t even be able to understand” derisively at Charlie, Ryan and myself. I certainly hoped that he wasn’t right.
The film opens with Nobita immersing himself in his latest nerdy obsession: learning about dinosaurs. After perusing a book on dinosaurs, our protagonist decides that he ought to go do a little fieldwork of his own. When he’s caught analyzing rock formations in a neighbor’s back yard, he is reprimanded then asked to dig a hole for the neighbor to dispose of his garbage in. Nobita complies and in doing so, makes a fortuitous and inexplicable discovery mere inches below the soil. While he initially writes off his finding as an oddly-shaped rock, he quickly realizes that it’s no rock at all-it’s a fossilized egg!
Well, Nobita then proceeds to do what any fourth grader would do with an egg-shaped rock: he wraps it up in a time-traveling cloth (one of Doraemon’s high-tech toys from the 22nd century, natch). After a few hours, the rock has been effectively returned to the prehistoric era and when Nobita removes the cloth, there is a large, spotted egg in its place. He resolves to care for it until it hatches and spends the next few days huddled under a heavy blanket with the egg, in an effort to keep it warm. The plan works and soon the egg hatches, revealing what appears to be a small, orange plesiosaur (it’s worth noting that this is not actually a dinosaur but rather, an aquatic reptile).
We’re then treated to a number of scenes of the plesiosaur doing sickeningly cute things such as playing with a ball and eating sashimi. Since the only things he seems to be able to say are “Pi!” and phonetic variations of “Pi!” Nobita appropriately names him Pisuke. Through a series of rapidly infeasible episodes, we see how Nobita and Doraemon manage to keep a rapidly growing dinosaur concealed within their tiny room in their tiny Tokyo home. Of course, Pisuke is a dinosaur (well, sort of), so no amount of comical antics will keep him hidden from Nobita’s parents for very long. Realizing this, Nobita and Doraemon somehow transport the now almost full-grown Pisuke to a local pond. Of course, no one notices them moving a dinosaur through the streets of their quiet neighborhood. For that matter, no one seems to notice that there’s a huge dinosaur living in their small pond either. Go figure.
All seems well until one day when a space cowboy wearing what appears to be a rubber mask purchased at an adult toy store appears in Nobita’s room and in an evil monologue, reveals his intentions to capture Pisuke and exploit him for profit. Things get even more complicated when Pisuke decides to show up at Nobita’s window later that night. All of a sudden, the normally unobservant people of Tokyo are alerted to the fact that there’s a huge fucking dinosaur living in their neighborhood and when Nobita awakes the next morning, the entire neighborhood is abuzz about the beast in their midst. Nobita and Doraemon rush down to the pond to find camera crews and divers preparing to trap their prehistoric friend. Doraemon somehow uses a rubber ducky to create a diversion; meanwhile, Nobita uses one of Doraemon’s gadgets, a shrink ray, to shrink Pisuke down to a manageable size and escapes with the reptile in tow.
It’s about this time that Nobita and Doraemon stumble upon the brilliant realization that modern-day Tokyo is no place for a plesiosaur. To that end, they hop into Nobita’s drawer and start up the old time machine. As they’re traveling back to prehistoric times another time machine appears behind them in the tunnel of computer generated Dali-esque melting clocks. It’s that dastardly porno space cowboy! Now at this point I found myself wondering why the cowboy doesn’t just use his time machine to travel back in time and get his own damn dinosaur but I guess that just wouldn’t be evil enough. Anyway, an exciting chase scene follows with our heroes making a characteristically narrow escape. They then drop off Pisuke on a beach and after a teary farewell scene (featuring Pisuke’s head flying through the air in slow motion, tears streaming from his eyes, shouting “Piiiiiiiiii!”) it’s back to the future for our protagonists.
Well, Nobita has been bragging to his neighborhood pals (i.e. the girl that he’s crushing on and the two bullies who regularly beat him up) about this great thing that he’s found but now he’s got nothing to show them. So when they all show up at his house, he asks Doraemon to bust out his time-traveling computer monitor so that they can all have a look at Pisuke. Oh no! It looks like some very evil-looking plesiosaurs are going to have Pisuke for lunch and not in the good way. Oh that’s right! Pisuke is native to North America, not Japan, what were they thinking? Wait, why was that egg in Japan then? I guess Pisuke’s mom must have been the prehistoric equivalent of a JET participant or something. Anyway, Nobita jumps into the magic drawer without thinking (although it doesn’t seem like he gives things a lot of thought in general) and the rest of the crew has no choice but to follow.
Upon their arrival, the time machine is somehow damaged, rendering them temporarily trapped in the past. They find Pisuke fairly easily but without the flying time machine, they are unable to proceed. Luckily, Doraemon has just the thing for such an occasion-his famous head-mounted bamboo-copters and five of them at that! They again shrink Pisuke, don the propellers and head for North America.
[Editor's Note: At this point in the movie I started falling asleep, so it gets a little hazy from here on out. Forgive me for things being out of order and for leaving out whatever parts I slept through.]
Okay, so somehow the propellers all break and they have to land somewhere. Then the space cowboy shows up with a whole posse of guys with guns but instead of simply killing all of the children and taking Pisuke they give them a treasure chest full of toys instead? I’m not sure why they do this, maybe they decided to switch things up a bit and do something not evil. One of the kids figures out some way to fly using something in the toy chest but I can’t remember what it was.
Then, at some point, they’re all sitting around on a beach and in a parody of that famous Jurassic Park scene, ripples in their water bottles alert them to the presence of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. That part was pretty funny, I guess.
In one of the movie’s most ridiculous scenes, the entire cast of characters walks around underwater, laughing, talking and joking all the while. I guess this could be explained by Doraemon’s “deep sea cream,” although it’s never mentioned that they actually use it in the movie. In my opinion, it’s pretty irresponsible to put a scene like this in a children’s movie because kids are always trying to do the things that they see in movies and they are also pretty dumb.
There’s also a scene in there somewhere where they come upon a herd of brontosaurs and all is well until a Tyrannosaurus Rex shows up and starts tearing shit up. Luckily, Doraemon has a package of little white candies with him that can make any animal docile. He pops one in the T-Rex’s mouth and all of a sudden, the beast is subdued. Then, instead of eating the brontosaurs, the T-Rex helps the kids apply a huge band-aid to the side of the brontosaur that he has harmed. Seriously.
Later, the scene shifts to the bad guys’ evil lair where we find out that the boss of the cowboy is something of a dinosaur collector and only needs one more type of dinosaur to complete his collection. And guess what type of dinosaur that is? If you said “the spitter,” you are wrong because that is not really a type of dinosaur. Of course, our heroes cannot allow this anachronistic injustice to take place and they eventually show up at the secret hideout and do something that causes the entire place to explode. Inexplicably, this does not harm any of the dinosaurs but rather, sets them all free. Also the Time Patrol shows up and arrests the evil gang. Yes, that’s right, the Time Patrol.
Finally, the children somehow make it to North America, most likely by using one of Doraemon’s gadgets. Upon arriving there, Pisuke sees a group of fellow orange plesiosaurs swimming out at sea and he heads out to meet them. There’s another tearful goodbye and then the group somehow makes it back to Japan and Doraemon somehow fixes the time machine and they all head home. I’m pretty sure that the movie ends with them all walking out of the house with Nobita’s mom asking them what they’ve been up to but I really can’t rule out the possibility that I fell asleep between that scene and the end credits.
In the final analysis, this movie was pretty ridiculous and boring. However, I realize that cynical, overly critical 22-year old Americans are probably not this film’s target demographic. As a matter of fact, the rest of the theater, consisting of mostly 3 to 10-year olds and their parents, seemed absolutely delighted by the action onscreen and laughed heartily every time a funny face was made or a pair of pants fell down. So I suppose I can say this; if you are either the type or person who thinks that pants falling down and funny faces are really funny or the type of person who can appreciate a very expensive nap, this film is for you.