Saturday, July 08, 2006

***STARBOY***

An extraterrestrial who loves Puerto Rico, a race of sponges waiting for their savior, a cry for help in the form of a Philly soul doo wop song … yep, sounds like STARBOY!

Musician and songwriter Lee Feldman created STARBOY with animator Joe Campbell, both residents of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. The project premiered at Millenium Film Archives in 2004 and was shown and performed with a live band in 2005 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. OK, here’s the story: STARBOY’s planet becomes unsuitable for living, so he comes to Earth to live with his uncle, an antisocial mathematician. STARBOY sees the same girl every day in a Greek diner in Brooklyn, and they fall in love. The girl, who loves contrapuntal music, works for a self-loathing boss who runs a sponge factory. The boss goes spear fishing for the very same family of sponges STARBOY is destined to save, only to shoot and injure STARBOY, who returns to his planet. Got it? Don’t worry, STARBOY isn’t mortally wounded, which is good news for haters of fatal endings, and even better news for lovers of possible sequels. The underlying themes of destiny, loneliness, love, self-discovery, and acceptance are intertwined within this sometimes enigmatic, but exceptionally fascinating story.

The piano-driven soundtrack is a poptastic treat, something like Ben Folds Five meets Abbey Road-era Beatles, with a little low-key Broadway thrown in. Every song is so wonderfully melodic and full of hooks you can’t help but sing them to yourself the rest of the day. And the animation is just as unforgettable: like a widescreen lava lamp, the computer-aided-design figures and backgrounds gracefully flow and pulse as the story moves along. The music from STARBOY is available separately, for the adults who want to sneak a listen on the commute to work or after the kids are asleep. It’s that good. Really.

So, if your little ones are into more advanced music forms, or are fans of unique animation styles, I would highly recommend this DVD, and most certainly the CD soundtrack. As for the appropriate viewing age, Mr. Feldman himself said that Toddlers and preschoolers seem to dig it more that older kids, in spite of the sad ending, maybe because the tiny ones innately know that life is mysterious and not necessarily fair. A far better review than I could ever have written.