• by Wes Singleton

Okja, B

Not rated, 120 minutes

In English and Korean

"Okja" is an odd duck of a movie about a big pig: a South Korean save-the-animal fable from the director of the hit monster movie "The Host." It's also a charming, touching David vs. Goliath tale with an eclectic cast that has a lot to say about little people who take on big corporate bullies and win in their own way.

For 10 idyllic years, young Mija (An Seo Hyun) has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja--a massive animal and an even bigger friend--at her home in the mountains of South Korea. She risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company led by a ruthless CEO (Tilda Swinton) from kidnapping her new best friend.

"Okja" is directed by Bong Joon-ho and co-written by Joon-ho with Jon Ronson ("The Men Who Stare at Goats") and is a pleasantly entertaining animal adventure film masterfully handled by Joon-ho yet also filled with many oddities. Given that it's about saving a massive, genetically-created pig named Okja from a corporate bully, led by the always-wonderful and watchable Oscar-winner Swinton, in another strange but well-acted role in which she dramatically changes her looks once again; she also does double duty playing the former twin sister CEO who makes things worse.

Speaking of Swinton, "Okja" has some strangely odd moments in the vein of another unusual yet entertaining Swinton vehicle, "Snowpiercer," as envisioned as a save-the-animal flick. Swinton's role is supporting, but it's a memorable one, and she headlines an eclectic cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal as a whiny, weasily zoologist working for Swinton's evil corporation, along with Lily Collins ("Rules Don't Apply") and Paul Dano ("Love & Mercy") as animal rights activists with ulterior motives of their own with Okja.

Joon-ho tries to combine many elements: comedy, action-adventure and fable, and most work remarkably well, though some of the comedic bits work tend to fall a little flat, and Gyllenhaal's moments are often stranger than Swinton's, if that's possible (his scenes with the crowd in New York City border on disturbing). The more touching moments come between South Korean newcomer Seo Hyun and Okja, the CG-created pig that Joon-ho blends sublimely with the live-action footage.

The film has some darker and subversive elements that don't make "Okja" a family film (especially in the last act, when they eat "Super Pig Jerky"), but it's solid, if not weird storytelling, is still strangely touching and relevant, given the current U.S. political environment. It may not appeal to a mainstream crowd, but those that see it will enjoy this "super pig" tale.

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