Movie Review – The Adventures of Milo and Otis

Okay, since the COVID-19 situation has thrown off my plans for the Impressions series, I’d like to branch off a bit and write reviews. I obviously can’t review a film/game/anime/book/etc the same way I’d review an event, so this series will be more in the traditional review style than in the highlight compilation style I’ve been doing before. I’d like to start this off with a movie I recently watched on Netflix, since it’s the freshest thing on my mind.

The Adventures of Milo and Otis is a live-action movie directed by Masanori Hata, following the adventures of the mischievous cat Milo and his loyal pug friend Otis. The duo, who grew up together on a farm, find themselves separated and thrust into the wilderness. Their two-fold goal of reuniting and finding their way back home takes them on a long journey reminiscent of Homeward Bound. On paper, the movie sounds like a wholesome experience: cute, charming, a short flick fun for the whole family.

The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986) - IMDb
The film’s English release poster.

It’s clear, however, that little thought was put into consistency. First off, Otis knows what a clam is, but not a lobster? Why? Where on a farm could he have possibly learned about clams? If the clams can speak, why don’t the lobsters? What about the bear who keeps running into Milo? That bear doesn’t even get a throw-away line, can it speak? Suspension of disbelief can only carry a movie so far… and they somehow expect us to believe that there just so happened to be two collar-less pugs of similar age and opposite genders trudging through the exact same stretch of forest just before winter hits?

Following on that last note, the movie’s second half has a rather glaring timeline flaw. (Spoiler Warning) Otis splits off, finds this other pug, and has a litter with her. Remember, they meet at the onset of winter, and also note that a dog’s gestation period is roughly two months. Shortly after the children are born, the new family is out of food, and Otis must brave the cold to find some… the math here isn’t adding up. How could it have possibly taken this long for them to run out of food? It’s the dead of winter in an alpine environment, one was pregnant, and they had no time to stockpile supplies.

Even ignoring the movie’s consistency problems, I still have issues with it. The narrator, while charming at first, sometimes got on my nerves just because of how much he talks. There’s value in silence too, you know? I know precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the animals during filming, but I really hope the kitten wasn’t actually in that box when it went down the waterfall. The animal abuse controversies surrounding this movie don’t exactly help my concerns, though nothing was ever proven in court.

Fun Fact: This movie was first made in Japan, and it performed really well over there. It even won the Japan Academy Prize for Popularity Award. Only later did it make its way here to the West, where Columbia Pictures dubbed it into English and cut down the run-time by a whopping 15 minutes. I don’t know if that extra run-time would’ve improved my view of this movie, but it’s something to note nonetheless.

The Adventures of Milo and Otis - Wikipedia
The film’s original Japanese poster.

Most of my comments so far have been criticisms, but I don’t think this movie is irredeemable. There are certainly worse time-wasters out there. The humor is good, and some of the characters are pretty fun. Aside from the main duo, I’d say my favorite character was the turtle. The total lack of human characters in this movie is also pretty unique. The focus is split between two perspectives, but you never really lose track of what’s going on. The camera work is also really well-done, and the environments are interesting.

Perhaps my opinion is unpopular; most of the online reviews are rather good. Going by the standards of 1986, I’d say the movie does alright. However, I don’t think it’s aged particularly well. I don’t dislike it per se, but I’m not exactly a fan either, and nothing about it really stands out enough for me to consider watching it again.

In Need of Repair