Okja Review

In his audacious new film, Bong Joon Ho (Mother, Snowpiercer) pits a little Korean girl and her beloved super-pig against a corporate food mogul (Tilda Swinton). Okja is the name of a giant pig hybrid that little Mija (Seo-hyeon Ahn) has brought up for ten years high in the mountains of South Korea. That Okja is a GMO experiment makes no difference to her. He’s just her enormously fun pet. And in the opening scenes of the film, they do have big fun. But when the owner of the pig sends an envoy to give Mija’s grandpa a prize for best pig and decides to take Okja back to the US, Mija isn’t having it. She’s out to save her best friend. It’s wacky and the second half doesn’t entirely work, but at its heart it’s a sweet story of a girl and her super-pig.

The film starts off with mogul Lucy Mirando’s (Swinton) announcement of a revolutionary new pig that will save the world with its low carbon footprint and a lot of other eco-sounding great attributes. She’s sending piglets to farmers around the world to see which practices will raise the best one. Flash forward 10 years, and we’re in S. Korea meeting Okja. He looks like a cross between a hippo and a dog, with very little pig in the mix. But the animators designed a very cute animal and the scenes with Mija really do make you love him and want one (if you have a lot of space.) But all this happiness is destroyed when Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal), the spokesman for Mirando Corporation, arrives. At first Mija is delighted to see this celebrity, but when her pig disappears, she’s girl power all the way! She teams up with The Animal Liberation Front led by Jay (Paul Dano) and before you know it they’re in New York fighting the power.

I must say that the first half of the film was a lot more fun. The latter half is part chase and fight, part anti-meat polemic, and mostly kind of a bummer. And Jake Gyllenhaal’s character really starts to grate. Seo-Hyun Ahn’s Mija is the standout performance though. But I’m not sure who the audience is for this. I’d have said kids when it started, but then with all the f-bombs and the slaughterhouse, I’d say not. But do adults really want to watch a movie about a sweet super-pig and a girl? (Maybe those who like Snowpiercer. I wasn’t one.) Good thing it’s on Netflix and you can just watch and decide for yourself without spending anything.

It’s streaming on Netflix now, but also in theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

1 Comments

  1. Hannah Buchdahl, July 3, 2017:

    Mainstream Chick’s two cents: Okja starts out looking like some sort of cross between the live-action Jungle Book and Charlotte’s Web — the adventures of a girl and her giant (CGI) pig. What’s not to love? The second half – where the film amps up the satire and the violence – morphs into a film that could be downright horrifying for kids (unless they’re a young vegetarian looking for validation). So despite an interesting cast, including an excellent performance by An Seo Hyun as Mija, and a super-pig that can tug at your heartstrings, I’d have a hard time (like Arty Chick) figuring out who to recommend this particular film to. Animal rights activists? Vegetarians? I dunno. One thing’s for sure though, I’ll be skipping the hot dogs for a while.

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