Looking out at night and seeing the stars is something many of us take for granted, without even stopping to wonder how they have inspired our ancestors, delighted children and guided sailors for millennia. Even the most beautiful things can become mundane, until you stop thinking about them. In the world of Poupelle of Chimney Town, instead of being banal, the stars are mythical. With smoke covering the sky and making the night dark, no one in town has ever seen a star, and the government doesn’t want that. Fortunately, our heroes like to dream big.
Poupelle of Chimney Town follows the titular Poupelle, a man with a heart of a fallen star and a body made of rubbish from a landfill, as he befriends Lubicchi, a young boy living in Chimney Town who chases the stories that his father left him. Together the two set out to unravel the mysteries of Chimney Town, see the stars, and prove to the townspeople that there is indeed an outside world, contrary to what the government and their enforcers, the Inquisitors, would have people believe. .
The plot is a sweet and heartfelt story about the friendship between Poupelle and Lubicchi, although there is huge intrigue if you stop and really think about who is doing what and why. The film is driven by its emotional threads and relationships, which form a strong and compelling core. Despite all the flaws, you want to root for Poupelle and, more importantly, Lubicchi, to achieve their dreams, and that keeps you emotionally invested. Those looking for a strong plot that makes sense from start to finish will be disappointed to find many plot points that don’t quite make sense, but which the viewer is expected to accept anyway.
The film features a colorful cast of characters, with the serious Poupelle and the determined Lubicchi at the center. The eccentric, motormouth miner Scooper adds a great dose of levity, and the camaraderie of Lubicchi’s fellow chimney sweeps helps fill out his story and give the world itself depth. A special mention also goes to Bruno, Lubicchi’s absent but ever-present father, who disappeared a year ago but whose stories and bravery continue to impact his son. Rounding out the lineup we also have Antonio and his friends, three school-age bullies from Lubicchi, his mother Lola, and Dennis Letter XV, the ruler of the weird and mysterious Chimney Town.
Led by Tony Hale and Antonio Raul Corbo as Poupelle and Lubicchi, the English cast is absolutely spot on, with emotional performances from all. Misty Lee’s performance as Lola is absolutely heartbreaking, and Kari Wahlgren shines, as always, as the dynamic Dorothy. A special mention goes to Hasan Minhaj as Scooper, who I’m sure delivered two whole minutes of enthusiastic dialogue without taking a single breath.
Visually, Poupelle of Chimney Town is an absolute treat. The aesthetic is a cross between steampunk and grimepunk and is very reminiscent of the Professor Layton series. This also extends to the characters, beautifully designed by Atsuko Fukushima. Each character is unique and original, and no two are alike, except of course the government inquisitors who copy and paste. Even the uniforms that the chimney sweeps wear have their own style and personality which can be seen visually. The wide camera shots provide an unobstructed view of the size and scope of Chimney Town itself, showing the vast and convoluted world where our heroes reside and making the town feel like a character in its own right – what she is almost.
The film’s music is orchestral and beautiful, though the highlight is the decidedly non-sweep but very rock opening number, “Halloween Party” by HYDE. It’s catchy, infectious, scary and fun all rolled into one and kicks off the plot perfectly. My only complaint is that it makes me want more musical numbers in the movie, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the planned Off-Broadway version of Populated for that.
At the end of the day, Populated has a lot of heart and a lot of artistic and aesthetic flair. Relationships and emotions carry the film more than the sometimes absurd plot, backed up by an excellent English dub cast. If you’re looking for an interesting world with characters you want to root for and an original supporting cast, look no further than Poupelle of Chimney Town.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equals “Excellent”. While there are a few minor issues, this score means the art hits its mark and leaves a memorable impact.
Disclosure: The reviewer received a screening link for ComingSoon’s Poupelle of Chimney Town exam.