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CONCIERGE, THE is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
Recommended age 12-18
70 minutes
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It's easy to enjoy The Concierge, as it is a warm-hearted and charming story. All the lessons are plated tastefully, a quality I much admire.

The story follow Akino who, as a small girl, visits a luxury mall designed for animals, a place where all wishes are addressed and desires fulfilled. Her own dream comes true when she becomes a concierge and understands how her own happiness comes from making others happy.

The story line is clean and closed -- by that I mean that all the characters' situational threads are resolved. Also, the threads are often woven together, and this technique adds to the film's harmonious theme of teamwork. The animation makes a point of visual perspective: some of the animal patrons are small, some are large, some are overtly showy or brash, and some are meek. This perspective emphasizes the necessity of Akino and her fellow concierges adjusting their stance to meet customers where they stand, making the point visually. The human characters are drawn with different eyes -- some closed, others wide open or adjusted with glasses to make a point about seeing others. Akino's are always drawn wide open, and the Great Auk's are twinkly and knowing. The animal characters are anthropomorphic, all wearing clothing and expressing their personality in human mannerisms and facial expressions, which invites an empathic response from the audience.

The multistory mall exudes luxury and expansiveness, from the shelves filled with glamorous perfume bottles to the meticulously prepared dishes in the elegant restaurant. More noticeable is what the sounds are not: there is no braying, or growling, barking, or cooing -- no animal sounds whatever. All communication occurs in human format. Akino's character development constitutes the film's centerpiece. As a concierge on probation, she must make adjustments to serve a vast array of clientele, surely a study in diversity. At times her efforts fall short, and she learns from her mistakes. She also overpromises to several customers in a burst of enthusiasm, and other employees then join forces to make the dreams come true. She must learn the diplomatic skills required to make all patrons comfortable in the mall's confines, which means quelling the peacock's predilection for shows of public affection, as well as a sea lion's temper tantrum when the shop cannot provide a dress in her size. She learns to "see," to sharpen her powers of observation, to recognize the other's desire to "do something for someone" so that a gift does not become nothing more than a meaningless gesture. It must be said that all the patrons are extinct animals and the employees are humans at their service. To me, this configuration implies that humans have fallen short as the concierges of nature in all its diversity, having served themselves above the complex interrelationships of the animal kingdom. Yet, Akino's developed perceptions offer hope of redemption as she learns to "see." I enjoy the scene where Akino wonders why the elevator is moving so slowly, only to turn her head slightly and see a massive woolly mammoth standing next to her. Maybe this is my own sense of humor at work... or maybe it is the visual suggestion that there is indeed an elephant in the room when it comes to man's interaction with the natural world. Also, Akino asks the flightless Great Auk to soar around the mall so she can share his film from this perspective with a sick baby bird that cannot see it for herself. Regardless of his natural incapability, the Great Auk leaps from the highest floor and struggles mightily until he opens a bright red parachute to help him float above the crowd. Charles Darwin's observations led him to conclude that adaptability is survival. Akino's adaptability at learning to fine-tune her sensory perceptions insures her survival as a concierge.

The natural world, of which man is a part, requires heightened perception and teamwork for the benefit of mutual survival. There's room for growth in man's role as a servant of this system.

I give The Concierge 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. Younger children will find it a heartwarming film with a happy ending, whereas older viewers may notice the embedded messages and open discussion about man's place in the natural world. By Debra L., KIDS FIRST!

Akino is a trainee concierge at the Hokkyoku Department Store, an unusual department store that caters exclusively to animals. Under the watchful eyes of the floor manager and senior concierges, Akino runs around to fulfill the wishes of customers with a myriad of needs and problems in her pursuit to become a full-fledged concierge.
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