Though the cover of the film clearly displays the clever mixture of humorous quirkiness and bleak melancholy, some may still mistake the presentation of claymation characters as pertaining to what is generally considered a “kid’s movie.” Mary and Max may share many elements with movies of this ilk – including poop jokes, pratfalls, and occasional childlike innocence – but it shares much more of a relation with the gloomy dramedies that have become popular in the last half-decade. Not that writer/director Adam Elliot – whose short film Harvie Krumpet won him an Oscar in 2004 – could be considered derivative. In fact, Mary and Max (and Harvie Krumpet – included as a special feature on this dvd) showcases Elliot’s singular vision of childlike wonder clashing with the harsh realities of adulthood.

Through the course of the movie, we follow a young Australian girl (Mary – eventually voiced by Toni Collette, once she ages) as she sends and receives letters, postcards, and packages from the titular Max (expertly voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman), a depressed Jewish overeater with Asberger’s Syndrome. The two characters, living as outcasts from the societies around them, manage to connect over the years as they discuss alcoholism, religion, and where babies come from. As the story progresses and Mary ages, she eventually marries and goes off to college, where she seeks a “cure” for Max’s disorder. The relationship between Mary and Max is alternately commonplace and sublime as the two very different individuals react to the beliefs, troubles, and joys of each other’s lives.

With striking visuals (there’s also a nice “Making Of” and a “Behind The Scenes” featurette included on the dvd) and a moving story full of pathos, Mary and Max is a beautifully presented film that manages to touch on universal themes through the seemingly confined lens of a few odd characters. Though I have to admit that the ending is a bit disappointing, everything leading up to it is impeccable.

Zach’s Rating: B+
Perfect For: Animation fans looking for more adult subject matter
Stay Away if: You’re looking for a good animated film to share with your kids

To purchase Mary and Max, visit Amazon

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