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Welcome to the Space Show PDF Print E-mail
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Blu-ray Reviews
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 10:51
Kids always dream of going into space, but when five kids enjoying their summer camp help out an alien dog, they end up travelling through the galaxy on an adventure that none of them could ever have expected...

Five young school friends set to spend a week together at summer camp avoiding the hassles of parental supervision unexpectedly find themselves on a truly out-of-this-world adventure when their class rabbit goes missing. Searching for their pet, the kids find and rescue what they believe to be an injured dog. As it turns out, the creature is actually a stranded alien named Pochi, who rewards their kindness with the offer of a trip to the moon! However, this simple sightseeing excursion to view the lunar landscape up close spins out of control and leads to a thrilling chase across the galaxy, with the five friends and their extra-terrestrial companion on the run from evil aliens intent on ruling the universe...

So much for the official blurb, which in this case is pretty accurate. Our group of five is a varied bunch: Natsuki is an outgoing girl who dreams of being a heroine (but really wasn't expecting to get the chance so soon); her little cousin Amane used to look up to her, but a combination of changes in Natsuki's outlook since her and Amane's families moved in together, and Natsuki 'losing' Amane's class rabbit have created some tension between the pair. Kiyoshi is the oldest of the bunch, ever trying to be Mr Reliable but not always managing to be; Koji is a bookworm, ever curious about the world around him. Rounding out the group is Noriko, a shy young girl who has dreams of being a singing idol. They're perhaps not a natural group of friends, but friends they are - and when they get the chance to spend some time together at a "summer camp" (at which they've inexplicable been left without adult supervision - straight out of the "What were the parents thinking!?" department), it's an opportunity to exercise some freedom that they're not about to waste.

Meeting Pochi turns their plans on its head, though. Pochi has travelled to Earth looking for the source of a substance known as Zughaan, which has some unusual properties and seems to be at least related to Earth's wasabi root. Those unusual properties are enough for there to be a criminal trade in the stuff - enter Neppo, host of the galaxy's favourite entertainment show, The Space Show, who needs a good supply of Zughaan for his nefarious schemes. And since Natsuki is carrying some wasabi root in her bag, she and her friends end up targetted by Neppo and relying on Pochi (and a menagerie of other strange aliens they meet during their adventures) to help them get back home to Earth in one piece. And perhaps save the galaxy along the way.

Okay, so the lack of parents is a handy contrivance to make sure that the kids can have their adventure without anyone noticing they've gone - I can forgive that, especially since the rest of the story hangs about well. Most of the movie is a journey through the universe, with Pochi taking the group from place to place and showing them how wonderful and varied the universe can be while trying to get them back home. The movie's universe has been wonderfully-realised, too, with an amazing variety of alien worlds, races and different enviroments on display - it's like the creators just let their imaginations run wild, and put whatever they came up with in their minds on screen. Some creations are the mundane made exceptional (an interstellar "train", which is really a giant insect flying between the stars), other things are true flights of fantasy (a festival gathered around a star that's about to go supernova, with the aliens there protected from the explosion but able to watch it happen). At over 2 hours long (136 minutes, total), you'd almost expect it to be too long, especially for something that's pitched as a kids' movie, but the constant stream of wonderful things that you see on the screen, and the reactions of the kids as they travel through it, means that you never really notice the time passing.

There's a decent story in there, too, in the way that Neppo and his sidekicks chase after the kids and the ultimate revelation of what Neppo's up to that throws some genuine danger into the mix. It's nothing deep - again, this is a kids' movie at heart so the story's kept fairly light and easy-to-follow - but it's enjoyable stuff and lets the kids achieve some of their dreams while working out some of their issues, particularly between Natsuki and Amane.

The end result is fast, fun, full of adventure and wonder - and a little heartwarming in places, too. It's also a treat to look at (especially on Blu-ray). Take all that together, and there's a lot to like about Welcome to the Space Show, even for older audiences - it's not just for kids. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Rating - ****

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