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Tokyo Godfathers

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While Satoshi Kon's new anime film may bear some resemblance to the 1948 three-cowboys-and-a-baby Western, The Three Godfathers, John Ford's film sure didn't feature a touching scene in a bar full of old drag queens. On a snowy Christmas in Tokyo, a homeless trio -- a middle-aged alcoholic man, an aging weepy transvestite and a teen-age runaway -- discover an abandoned baby girl, and take great pains and greater risks to return the child to her mother. In their journey -- through alleys, hospitals and empty office buildings -- they bond as a quirky family and discover real joy despite their impoverished circumstances. This film is by turns comic, sentimental and obvious -- a holiday heart-warmer -- but as always the animation is beautiful, especially the glittery canyons of Tokyo, its streets emptied by the season and muted by falling snow. The plot relies so heavily on outrageous coincidence that I hope it was some commentary on the quixotic nature of fate. (Kon's previous film, Millennium Actress, turned on similarly convenient points, but also openly employed a strong streak of fantasy.) The over-the-top plot even undermines Kon's critique of homelessness: Had his characters not acted inexplicably like action heroes, they would surely still be ignored on the streets. In Japanese with subtitles. Two and a half

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