"The Golden Laws" is a well-meaning but tedious and heavily didactic spiritual odyssey aimed at young people and based on a book with the same title, written by this animated film's executive producer, Ryuho Okawa, founder and leader of the Institute for Research in Human Happiness.
It suffers from a mishmash of animation styles and hopelessly stilted dubbed English dialogue.
The time and place is New Atlantis, AD 2403. Satoru is an intelligent, thoughtful 15-year-old who one day finds a tripod-like spaceship landing on the lawn of his family's mansion. Out pops screechy-voiced Alisa, a tiresome know-it-all who is Satoru's age.
She's time-traveling from the future, the 30th century in fact, and Satoru winds up going along for the ride. He'd love to visit Japan in AD 2003, but because Alisa is inept at the controls they wind up hopscotching to Greece in 2300 BC, Egypt in 1220 BC, India in 600 BC, Israel in AD 30 and China in AD 570.
They encounter a series of the world's great spiritual leaders during moments of their severest tests of faith: Hermes taking on Prometheus; Moses leading the Exodus and parting the Red Sea; Buddha redeeming an evil king; the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and the Chinese monk Tien Tai Chi-I visited by the spirit of the Shakyamuni Buddha.
In an ecumenical spirit the film celebrates all these figures as believers in God who inspire young people like Satoru and Alisa to lead lives of love and courage.
Some individual sequences are impressive, such as the evocation of ancient Egypt and the fanciful sea dragons that Hermes summons to stir up a storm to put out Prometheus' fire. However, the overall look and feel of the film is pallid and conventional.
"The Golden Laws" overflows with traditional wisdom and uplift but is very hard going.
'The Golden Laws'
MPAA rating: Unrated
Times guidelines: Suitable for all ages
An IRH Press Co. Ltd. presentation. Animation director Takaaki Ishiyama. Visual director Isamu Imakake. Animation creators Masami Suda, Keizo Shimizu, Yukiyoshi Hane, Marisuke Eguchi. Producers Seikyo Oda, Kujyou Ogawa, Naofumi Sato. Executive producer Ryuho Okawa. Visual effects creative director Yumiko Awaya. Visual effects by Visual Magic Nice and Day, Colorado FX, Sim EX Digital Studio. Visual effects supervisor Norihiko Ito. Music Yuichi Mizusawa. Editor Masashi Furukawa. In dubbed English with Japanese subtitles.
Exclusively at the Fairfax Cinemas, 7907 Beverly Blvd. (at Fairfax Avenue), (323) 655-4010.