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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Kiki's Delivery Service
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Walk Disney Studios Home Entertainment 03/10 Animated Film
G

Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Durst) is a smart and perky 13-year-old girl who lives with her mother (Kath Soucie), who is witch, and her father. She is a bit of a dreamer and a sensitive soul as evidenced by the scene in which we see her lying in a field watching the clouds drift by. But it is time for her to find her own way in the world as a witch: that means spending a year in training on her own in another city. Whereas many of today's anxious parents would not think of letting their teenage child travel to a strange place unaccompanied by an adult, Kiki's parents are delighted with the prospect of her coming to terms with her powers and testing her mettle. Her dad says goodbye to his "princess" while her mother insists that she take her special broom for flying.

On the journey to her undetermined destination, Kiki startles her black cat Jiji (Phil Hartman) with her bouncy takeoffs. They carry on conversations with the feline offering humorous takes on situations. Kiki meets a snobbish young witch on her way home from her year's training. Then there is a storm to contend with and an improvised landing in a train car where she spends the night.

In the morning, Kiki arrives in a bustling and beautiful port city which she loves as soon as she sees it. After making an inauspicious start by causing several cars to collide, this eager young witch is given a job at a bakery by Osono (Tress MacNeille), who is impressed with her flying skills. She lets her stay in the attic above the bakery and suggests she start a delivery service.

Kiki is delighted with the new life that unfolds for her. Her delivery service via broom is well-received except for one incident where she loses a toy. But even this setback has a bright side. Kiki meets Ursula (Janeane Garofolo), a very creative and independent artist who lives alone in the woods. The new witch in town is also befriended by Madame (Debbie Reynolds), who is impressed with her kindness and good cheer. Tombo (Matthew Lawrence), an enterprising young boy, takes a fancy to Kiki and even though she doesn't make it to a party he invites her to, they strike up a friendship.

Despite all the good things that happen to her during this initiation period, Kiki still feels like an outsider. Part of her wants to be normal like other people. It is this internal questioning of her identity which causes her to lose her power to fly and her ability to talk to Jiji. When Ursula finds out about Kiki's plight, she takes her away to her artistic sanctuary so she can rediscover the inspiration she needs to complete her apprenticeship.

This wonderful and enchanting animated picture is a 1989 classic directed by the Japanese master filmmaker Hayo Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle). He has again delivered a rounded and appealing young heroine who is coming of age in a strange new place. Instead of focusing on the magical power of witches to cast spells or to mix potions, Miyazuki focuses on Kiki's character development as she finds work, meets new people, and tries to be of service to everyone she encounters. Her kindness and enthusiasm win her many new friends and allies. Her fearlessness is one of her best qualities; it comes to the fore in her heroism when a dirigible crashes over the city and Tombo's life is endangered.

There are very few animated features available that revolve around the initiation of a young girl into adulthood. Make sure you experience the spiritual undertow of Kiki's Delivery Service and then share it with others!

This special edition 2-Disc set includes an introduction by John Lasseter, a storyboard presentation of the movie, and "The World of Glibli," an interactive experience where you can learn about the film's inspiration through a new interview with Hayao Miyazaki.

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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