A tiny mountain village in a remote woodland region. Five primary school kids have come together in this idyllic spot in order to spend their summer holidays at a camp. At first the children enjoy carefree days amidst unspoiled nature far away from adult supervision. But their life changes dramatically when they come across what they believe to be a small dog, badly in need of help. The creature - known as Pochi - turns out not to be a dog at all but an alien on an important mission. It seems there is a mysterious substance on earth that is coveted throughout the universe. Pochi had almost found it but was so badly injured during a fight that he had to give up his search. Thanks to the children's help, the alien survives - and decides to reward them generously.
Directed by: Kôji Masunari
, Masaaki Yuasa
. Starring: Tomoyo Kurosawa
, Honoka Ikezuki
, Takuto Yoshinaga
, Tamaki Matsumoto
, Shotaro Uzawa
, Keiji Fujiwara
, Ryôhei Nakao
, Rei Igarashi
, Masaya Onosaka
, Masanori Takeda
, Mitsuru Miyamoto
, Mayu Iino
, Hisao Egawa
. Music by: Yoshihiro Ike
Welcome to the Space Show by all means not a bad family movie, but it definitely is not a great one either. I am sure it can be very appealing to kids who have the patience to sit through it without being bored with its lack of action for the most part, and it sure will amaze any parents who watch it for its interesting depiction of the alien civilization.
The premise of the movie is a standard one. Some kids go on holidays alone on a rural area and meet an alien dog, who agrees to take them on a trip through space. During the trip, the kids must adjust and even work hard in order to overcome setbacks which delay the trip and their eventual return home. It has indeed its share of showing how little children need to work together, use their skills, make mistakes and learn from them, as means to open their minds to a whole new world that lies beyond their simple lives. It has adventure, comedy, sparks of drama and mystery, and even has a very action-based finale with a cosmic threat that arose because of their presence. On paper, it looks fine to follow through.
Of course, being a movie for the family eventually means that a lot of things make no sense or even feel off. For example, in the beginning of the film the parents leave their kids to go alone for several days in the middle of an unpopulated and uncivilized area. Their ages are simply way too small to accept that. I mean, what kind of a parent would let his kids go camping without adult supervision? All the mothers in my village wouldn't let us get to the swamp next to us without experienced hunters or fishermen as guides and trainers and these ones just LET THEM GO ALONE??? Even if they are to learn new things, who is going to teach them or help them if something goes wrong? This is the wilderness for Pete's sake; it is not the back alley of your neighborhood. Hell, even most back alleys are dangerous. And as you imagine, something did go wrong and they go jettisoned in the far corners of space.
As for what follows, it is still not exactly mind-boggling either. The kids go to several alien worlds and interact with whatever creatures and environments exist there. It all looks spectacular but doesn't take more than three seconds to realize that the aliens, despite claiming to be a far more advanced civilization than Earth's, are still practically nothing more than 21st century capitalists themselves. They have fast food identical to ours, kindergartens identical to ours, mechanics, mailmen, merchants, television, MONEY (heh proof of how they are not civilized at all), and generally despite the fancy alien exterior this is nothing but a typical urban society. They could have gotten on the city near their home and it would make no difference. This again doesn't help you to enjoy the movie as nothing more than a mediocre road movie, where the dull sceneries simply have more colors and polygons than usual.
As for the plot itself, the kids pretty much need to earn money in order to find a way home, thus they need to work in areas their skills work best. Is it me or does this translates to CHILD LABOR? Which is kinda... immoral? Or is it OK for the so called advanced aliens to create workers from the age of five? And seriously, it is all about money and wealth? And hold on a second, one of the kids has an Earth plant which to them is a most rare and addictive drug. And they actually make money by selling drugs to bystanders??? OK, this is simply crossing the line.
So this movie is practically about a group of kids, taken by a stranger to a city, where they need to work for money and sell drugs, all means to learn about the magical and advanced world that exists out there... YEAH RIGHT! The could have done the same in any ghetto for all I care. Or China. This is definitely not Walt Disney material. This is something along the lines of teaching the child audience the basics of capitalism. And since the pampered kids won't get it and the videogame0addicted ones will already know it, this movie is nothing but vanilla in a fancy wrapper. It looks gorgeous with those really cool production values of its, plus the kid voice actors really did a great job to pass as natural. Other than that... nothing. This is not a magical setting to make your innocent mind go traveling to fairylands. It is almost vicious! Maybe it can be seen as camouflaged hard realism and a sign of the times we are living in, where ideals went under and it is all about that printed piece of paper called money. That still doesn't feel like it should be a family movie. Why not some sort of teen adventure, where the themes would fit better? I sure wouldn't want any kids to watch this and get funny ideas about making money.
The finale of the movie is otherwise trashing even that weird feeling it was going for. Out of nowhere space villains appear and try to create some sort of universal change and there is a battle to be fought or something. WHERE DOES THAT FIT IN ALL THE REST? Once again I fail to see what that has to do with the whole idea behind the movie, other than proving again how even the aliens are just capitalists with green skin and four arms.
In all, I wasn't thrilled with this movie. Not only its themes were not-for-children in a children movie, but its plot was also unimaginative and ended expectable.
Review by Petros Malousis from the Internet Movie Database.