Netflix release ‘Okja’ struggles to find its audience

Okja (2017)

Directed by Bong Joon Ho

Adults don’t need childish gags to understand complex messages like “Don’t eat genetically modified meat,” so I’m not sure why “Okja”—the new Netflix release from South Korean auteur Bong Joon Ho (“Snowpiercer”)—felt the need to stoop so low.

In the future, the world’s hunger crisis will be even worse than it is now. The Mirando Corporation, under the leadership of Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), thinks it has the answer: a miraculous piglet with the perfectly-tuned qualities of an epidemic-ending superfood. It breeds quickly, it feeds many, and its excrement has a tiny carbon footprint. To see where these magical creatures will grow to their greatest potential, Mirando sends them to 26 farms around the world, with plans to check back in after 10 years. Mija (Ahn Seo-Hyun) and her grandfather raised their piglet, Okja, in South Korea, and when the 10 years are up, Mija won’t let her clumsy, cuddly friend go without a fight.

A star-studded cast doesn’t help “Okja” ascend beyond immature poop jokes and other stupid humor. Jake Gyllenhaal is near a career-low as a TV personality hired to sell the big pig reveal. His manic, high-pitched accent and ridiculous antics might be enough to earn him a Razzie. Paul Dano has about as much emotion as a piece of super-pig bacon. Tilda Swinton (in multiple roles) is her usual crazy self, but hardly the lift this movie desperately needed. Sure it has its moments of excitement and heart, mostly when Mija and Okja share the screen, but “Okja” turns into a sad take on “Pete’s Dragon,” but on even more magic mushrooms. It’s essentially a children’s movie with a hard R rating. I can’t tell who the intended audience is. In my opinion, “Okja” is just plain bad.

5.5/10

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