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Kiki's Delivery Service
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, Eiko Kadono (book), Jack Fletcher, John Semper
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Matthew Lawrence, Janeane Garofolo, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille
Language: English (Japanese version with English subtitles also available)
Look for it at the video store under: animation
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, fantastical 
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5 

Plot synopsis On the night of a full moon, thirteen-year-old Kiki decides it’s the perfect evening for her to embark on her year abroad in a foreign village, a mandatory requirement for her training as a young witch. Her parents are nervous, of course; her mom, a fellow witch, is convinced Kiki hasn’t even learned to fly well enough to take off on her journey. But Kiki refuses to be swayed: the weather’s perfect and she’s eager for the adventure. Under the clear moonlight, her friends and family gather to see her off. Clad in her official witch dress and with no company save her snarky black cat Jiji, Kiki climbs aboard her broom – borrowed from her mother, at mom’s insistence – and takes off on a long, turbulent flight towards parts unknown. Kiki eventually lands in an elegant, cosmopolitan city by the water, and falls in love with the sea air and the beautiful buildings, so different from the cozy little wooded village in which she’s spent her life thus far. It’s the perfect place for her to work on her witch skills – or so she thinks at first. She soon finds that most modern city folk feel they have little use for a fledgling witch. A kindly pregnant baker takes Kiki in, offering her a room above the bakery in exchange for a little light help. Slowly, Kiki settles into life in her new home, making friends with a boy named Tombo, who’s obsessed with building a flying machine (the fact that Kiki can actually fly without any machine at all makes her pretty much the perfect girl in Tombo’s eyes). She also discovers that while her magical powers may not be in high demand by the community, her flying abilities make her a perfect courier, which is how Kiki’s delivery service is born.

Review In many respects, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a far fluffier movie than Miyazaki’s better-known (in the U.S. at least) animated features Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. It’s a much more conventional, straight-on kiddie cartoon: ridiculously cute and sweet-natured to the core, all charming and light-hearted – 100% child-safe, with absolutely nothing in it that any parent could possibly object to or interpret as too adult for kiddie eyes. Even Kiki’s witch powers seem pretty non-witch-like -- sure, she can fly that broom and understand cats, but in every other way, Kiki’s just a normal girl, with no more connection to any deep, dark forces in the universe than your average moody teen. But there’s a lot to like about Kiki even if you’re well beyond the usual target audience age of animated fare. For one thing, Kiki herself (as voiced in the English version by the always adorable Kirsten Dunst) really is adorable, just sassy and occasionally bratty enough to make her likeably imperfect. The secondary characters are terrific as well, especially Jiji the cat, who, in his Phil Hartman-voiced English incarnation, at least, delivers most of the funny in the film with his deadpan hilarious cynicism. Sharing a starring role in the movie with Kiki herself is the rich splendor of the gorgeous seaside city where Kiki takes residence: from the lovely colors of the sky and ocean, to the sumptuous golden-pink light, to the painstakingly-rendered textures of the European-styled buildings and streets, the city is so vividly brought to life on-screen that you feel you ought to be able to book your next vacation there. Kiki’s Delivery Service may lack the spiritual depth and layers of meaning that Miyazaki’s newer films offer to adult viewers, but for fans of exquisite animation, it’s still well worth a look. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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