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flick pick | Castle in the Sky 1986
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, John Semper (U.S. translation)
Starring: [dubbed version] James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Cloris Leachman, Mark Hamill
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: family, animation
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, fantastical
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis A young orphan named Sheeta finds herself the target of pirates and the government alike, with each party eager to get their hands on a mysterious magical crystal that has been passed down in Sheeta's family for generations. Though Sheeta knows little about the stone's power, she knows she must protect it. As it turns out, the crystal protects Sheeta as well. When she jumps off an airship to escape from her pursuers, the crystal kicks into glowy action and saves her from plummeting to her death. Unconscious, Sheeta gently floats down from the sky, and into the arms of a boy named Pazu, who works as an apprentice for a mining engineer. Pazu, like Sheeta, is an orphan, and the two immediately become good friends. They also discover they share a connection to a mythical floating city in the sky named Laputa, and that Sheeta's crystal may actually come from Laputa itself. Soon Pazu and Sheeta find themselves on an adventure filled with secret government agents, giant robots and flying pirate ships - as the two friends try to find their way to the legendary kingdom in the sky that just may hold the answers that both Pazu and Sheeta have been chasing all their lives.

Review Castle in the Sky is undeniably a children's movie, complete with lovable child protagonists, evil adult villains, and fanciful creatures and fantastic worlds galore. But then again, the Harry Potter series is also unabashedly a work that's aimed at the kiddie set -- and this hasn't stopped every adult I know from battling the young 'uns to get their hands on each hotly anticipated new release. Clearly, there's a kid in each of us, and stories that stimulate the imagination remain thrilling no matter how many birthdays you've celebrated. While Castle in the Sky lacks some of the sophistication and depth of the director's later works, particularly Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Miyazaki's inventiveness is in full display in this dazzling animated feature. The myriad varieties of airships alone are amazing -- think boats that "sail" through the sky -- and include the army's massive Goliath ship, the pirates' wonderfully rickety Tiger Moth vessel, and the insect-like mini-scooters that pirate Dola and her boys use to zip between their main ship and the earth. When the two kids finally make it to Laputa, the city in the sky is so gorgeously, richly rendered that you're glad to take a small break from the nearly non-stop action, and luxuriate in the beauty of the visuals for awhile. Part Jules Verne inspired sci-fi fantasy, part Indiana Jones-style adventure, and 100% true art, Castle in the Sky is just pure good fun -- no matter what age you might be. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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