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Kiki's Delivery Service
1989 - - 103 Mins.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Producer: Hayao Miyazaki
Written By: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Matthew Lawrence, Janeane Garofalo, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille
Review by: James O'Ehley
For movies by Hayao Miyazaki, I usually dig up my thesaurus to look up synonyms for adjectives of the sort that marketing types like to put on as critics’ quotes on video covers and posters. You know, words like ‘charming’, ‘delightful’ and ‘heart-warming’ – usually the sort of criticspeak that makes you want NOT to check out the movie in question.

Hayao Miyazaki is a name you would probably not know even though he is probably one of the best-known parishioners of Japanese animation (or anime) in the West. Westerners and casual anime fans might know him as the director of “Princess Mononoke.” His other attempts include the delightful (see? there I go again) “My Neighbour Totoro” and the more action-packed “Castle in the Sky”. His most recent film is “Spirited Away” which it seems was seen exclusively by critics. They loved it to bits (critics like praising movies no one else has seen).

“Kiki’s Delivery Service” follows the adventures of a good-natured witch who has recently turned thirteen and has to undergo an apprenticeship in a city away from her parents. A wise cracking cat named Jiji (wonderfully voiced by the late great Phil Hartman of “The Simpsons” fame who supplies some droll comic relief accompanies her.

Soon Kiki takes up residence with a pregnant baker and begins her own delivery service. Travelling on a flying broomstick sure beats those traffic jams! There is preciously little plot and a plot of sorts kicks in about fifteen minutes before the movie’s end and involves Kiki losing her powers and having to rescue her friend from a dirigible accident.

So here I am. My thesaurus gave me the following alternatives: ‘amiable’, ‘pleasant’, ‘uplifting’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘moving’. If I sound cynical, I’m not. Really. At this point, I have a secret to impart: movie critics secretly hate good movies! They are the worst kind of movie to write about. Rather give them a cinematic turd, and then they will have a good time at it. I’m not saying that they are by nature nasty or anything, maybe it’s just easier to say bad things about a movie.

Be honest here: the most enjoyable reviews one reads are (a) the nasty negative ones and (b) those you do not agree with.

So here’s “Kiki’s Delivery Service” in a nutshell: it is a very enjoyable movie that should appeal to younger children, especially little girls. It is one of those movies you won’t mind your kids seeing because there is precious little – if any – nastiness in it. Some of Miyazaki’s movies are peculiar in the sense that there really are no bad guys or villains in it at all. Or any threat for that matter! So there’s nothing to scare the little ones here.

I liked “Kiki’s Delivery Service” for this same reason. With so much nasty and unpleasant stuff floating around in contemporary culture, something as good-natured as this comes as a surprise. (This includes the stuff passing as kids’ entertainment. Weren’t those spiders in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” just a bit too scary for the little ones? And how did you explain the sexual repressive undertones in Disney’s bizarre “Hunchback of Notre Dame”?)

Speaking of Disney, in my review of “My Neighbour Totoro” I wrote that it is ‘a welcome antidote to the US cultural imperialism of countless inferior Disney sell-thru videos.’ The same could be said of “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, except that I have been pre-empted: this movie has been dubbed into English and retooled for the American market by Disney!

The DVD in question seems to be a better option than the shoddy treatment Fox gave the “My Neighbour Totoro” DVD. The “Kiki’s Delivery Service” region 1 DVD distributed by Disney boasts a fantastic wide screen transfer, wonderful image and a digital sound that is something to revel in. Check it out.
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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