Rating: 3 stars out of 5
The Stars: Chiaki Kuriyama, Mayumi Iizuka, Megumi Oohara, Rie Tanaka, Tomokazu Seki, Wasabi Mizuta, Yumi Kakazu
The Story: As in the popular anime series, the hero of this piece is a nebbish prepubescent Japanese boy named Nobita – or Da Xiong in the Mandarin version – who has a loyal robot cat from the future by the name of Doraemon. The cat’s special ability? For the uninitiated, Doraemon can pull out all kinds of strange inventions from his magic pouch, which are particularly useful in helping Nobita solve whatever mundane problems plague him.
Doraemon, a reminder from Nobita’s descendants that the future is not bleak despite his many foibles, helps him again in this feature as Nobita and friends – the girl, the fat boy and the skinny kid – are unwittingly caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle of good and evil. It all begins when Nobita and Doraemon encounter a girl who appears to be a mermaid, but is actually an interstellar princess.
The Buzz: Doraemon The Movie: Nobita’s Mermaid Legend will appeal to those for whom the series was a childhood staple – yours truly included. There did not seem to be a lot of buzz surrounding this film in the lead-up to its release, but during this holiday season, it should be a no-brainer for those seeking good wholesome family fun.
inSing.com says: The film, the latest of many feature spin-offs, sticks to the series’ winning tried-and-trusted formula. As Doraemon and his ‘sister’ robot cat Dorami say at one point of the film: Doraemon can conjure up practically any invention imaginable to suit any occasion; the problem is, things have an invariable habit of backfiring (to comic effect).
Therein lies the entertainment factor. Here, the cat comes up with the usual favourites: the time-travelling platform, the door that leads to anywhere, and the helicopter hats – possibly the ideal eco-friendly means of transportation. To combat mean aliens and help Nobita and friends survive an underwater realm, he and Dorami pull out more tricks from their pouches.
Most of the hallmarks of the anime series can be found here, and for the most part, the slapstick humour and typical characteristics of Nobita and friends make for familiar, easy laughs. While the series tended to have mini-episodes and scenarios that last maybe ten minutes each, stretching the format into feature length – and having to have more emotional depth – does mean that the narrative sometimes does not bear up very well.
Despite that, the film is comforting in that it is pretty much what fans will expect it to be. Non-fans may be bored during the lulls in the story, but should be delighted by the imagination and cheek of Doraemon and his many gadgets, whatchamacallits, thingamajigs and dodads.
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.