Tokyo Godfathers

Starring: Toru Emori, Aya Okamoto, Yoshiaki Umegaki Directed by: Satoshi Kon, Shôgo Furuya

For those who are a little burned out on the holiday classics – Frosty the Snowman, Charlie Brown Christmas, maybe even National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or A Christmas Story – you might find Tokyo Godfathers an enticing choice.

The setting is Christmas Eve in Tokyo.  The main characters?  A trio of homeless people who survive as a loose family – Gin, the middle-aged drunk; Hana, the transsexual; Miyuki, the teenage runaway.  Already it sounds like the viewer should be expecting a punchline.

This anime feature opens with Gin and Hana attending a Christian Christmas Eve service, likely just to get out of the cold (as Gin keeps nodding off).  Later they meet up with Miyuki to scavenge at the dump when they hear a baby crying.  Hana, still awash with the story of the Virgin Birth and yearning to be a mother, is totally excited and ready to begin caring for the little lost lamb.  Gin tries to be rational and persuade her to take the baby to the police, but Hana begs for just one night of mothering.

Perhaps my American expectations have been spoiled by films like Three Men and a Baby, but with this setup it just seems like a comedy is brewing for the rest of the film.  Not so.

There's a key tucked in with the baby that leads the trio to a storage locker.  The locker in turn contains a few photographs and potential clues to the baby's short past.  As the try to locate the parents and understand why the baby was abandoned, their own past lives – and sometimes lies – unravel as well.

If you are looking for a fun, animated, (loosely) holiday-themed movie to watch with the family by the glow of the Christmas tree…this probably isn't it.  Check your local listings to see if Charlie Brown and his haggard tree are on.  Or better yet, check Game Show Network to see if they're having a Card Sharks marathon.

If you want the drama of people struggling with who they were (or who they might become), desperation and the power of love/forgiveness, this is a good choice.   However, it still might be a little too Christmas holiday-tastic for the truly jaded, as there is a nod to Sound of Music in it.

Written by: Jennifer Venson