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Delightful and charming - these two words sum up this film perfectly. My
only gripe is that
the story takes a little bit to kick into gear, but when it does you find
yourself utterly drawn
into the magical world this tale inhabits. And an utterly bizarre tale this
is, with enough
laughs, emotion and poignant moments anyone could want.
With beautiful animation, appealing character design and a wonderfully fitting score, Neko no Ongaeshi is now amongst my favorite animated pieces. For anime buffs, animated film buffs, ANYONE - I can't recommend this highly enough.
Let me start by saying that The Cat Returns is not the best of Ghibli and
Miyazaki had almost nothing to do with it. If Miyazaki had directed or
written it, the film would have been as great as Totoro or Kiki. This
is pretty much Whisper of the Heart as a Spirited Away style
The story is as follows: A normal girl named Haru is transported to the world of cats to marry a cat prince who she saved from a speeding truck. That's basically all that I can tell without giving away the film. For those of you who loved Whisper, Baron is back big time. It was great to see Baron have a much larger role as a hero. The `stray' cat from Whisper is also back and fatter than ever.
Though some Ghibli fans will be disappointed, those who are cat-lovers will fall in love with the film. The film's flaw lies in that the story moves along a bit too fast for my taste. Just don't go expecting a film on the same level as Spirited Away or Mononoke and you'll have a great time. Grade: A-.
Rated PG for frightening scenes, brief sensuality, and language. Suggested for ages 10 and up.
Short but sweet- is probably the best way to describe this movie.
Unlike other epics created by studio ghibli, such as Nausicaa of the
valley of the Wind and Spirited Away, this movie has a very simple
story and feels more like a really long episode of a TV show rather
than a movie. The characters are somewhat developed but there just
wasn't much time to do so since the story felt rushed. However, this is
still a very entertaining film full of subtle humor.
The only gripe i have with this film is that the Disney DVD is DUBTITLED. Disney forgot to translate the movie and tries to pass the script for the English dub as the translated subtitles.
I watched this for the fourth time today, and enjoyed it just as much,
maybe more than the first. For the best experience, I recommend
watching in Japanese, with subs if you need them. The original script
and voice talent doesn't need the Hollywood treatment.
Such a beautiful story! I'm a cat lover, and I'm sure that helps me enjoy the movie more, but it's just great as a tale and you could apply any animal to the basic plot and get a similar result.
Every time I watch it I have a big pile of hankies nearby, as it never fails to move me. If you like the emotional feed-off you get from a nice sentimental feel-good film, you should really give this a go! Probably my favourite animated film ever.
After the wild but fully justified furore surrounding Spirited Away, Studio
Ghibli's next production is a much lower key affair, clearly aimed at a
younger market. Having said that, this cynical thirty-something loved it to
bits. Ghibli purists seem to be somewhat snobbish about the studio's output,
but If this is an example of one of their films designed more for harmless
family entertainment, I can stand to see a lot more of it.
This is a wonderful fantasy film, cute and funny, and full of remarkable and memorable characters. The animation is solid and detailed, occasionally even breathtaking, and the soundtrack is gorgeous. The brisk running time ensures the light story doesn't outstay its welcome. In fact, I could easily have watched more, and I'm already looking forward to Ghibli's or Miyazaki's next flight of fantasy.
'The Cat Returns' is yet another treat produced by Studio Ghibli, the
company which brought us masterpieces such as 'My Neighbour Totoro' and
The story of this film is much simpler than previous Studio Ghibli productions/epics with a typical modern teenage girl Haru as the heroine. When walking home from school one afternoon, Haru rescues a cat from being ran-over by a lorry only to discover she is responsible for saving the life of Prince Lune, the heir apparent to the Cat Kingdom. Lune's father, the King of Cats, promptly decides the best way to repay such a favour is for Haru to marry his son. Naturally, our heroine is horrified at the prospect and must seek protection from enigmatic Baron, founder of the Cat Bureau, for help before she is carted off to the Cat Kingdom by the very determined cats.
As a cat-lover, I found this film utterly adorable. The scene where the cats from Cat Kingdom descend on Haru's street in the middle of the night was had a very wondrous aura to it and the scene where the cats try to make Haru laugh at her feast was hilarious. The characters, as always, are solid from the refreshingly normal teen-aged Haru to the grumpy Muta to the suave Baron (even though he's an animated cat, the charisma of the character will leave many females empathising with Haru's little crush on him!).
Although the plot of 'The Cat Returns' is a simple affair so it will easily appeal to young children, there is much humour in the film that will keep older kids and adults amused. Also, those who love cats can't help but fall in love with the many feline characters we come across in the film. Now, I'm off to track down 'Whisper of the Heart', which is a 1995 Studio Ghibli film that features the character of Baron.
Haru is down on her luck. She feels picked on at school, unable to get
her life together or even talk to the boy she likes. When she sees a
cat crossing the road and stuck in the path of a lorry, she acts
quickly to rescue it only for it to stand up and thank her! Haru
assumes she has just gone mad but when she tells her mother she is
reminded of a similar incident in Haru's childhood where she maintained
she was able to understand what a kitten was saying. Regardless, Haru
tries to just forget the whole thing but later that night she is
visited by the King of Cat Kingdom, The Cat King. Apparently the cat
Haru saved was the King's son Lune and she learns that she has been
rewarded with marriage to Lune not that she wants it. Her only help
is the Cat Bureau managed by the dashing and debonair Baron.
It is a problem that I bet we wish that we all had in our jobs the problem that our "normal" standards are so high that anything less than brilliant is perceived as being disappointing. This appears to be the case with Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli simply because it is not as poetic and epic as Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky and others. For those that consider that "it is not perfect" is the same as "it is not any good" then by all means avoid this film but personally I found it an enjoyable little fantasy that I can only imagine children will love. True the story lacks the emotional depth that I wanted it to have but it makes up for it with a good narrative, imagination and some nice humour. All of these combine to produce an enjoyable little fairy tale set in the real world and the cat kingdom. It is very short but then that suited the material.
The animation does not compare to the sheer magnificence to be found in some of Ghibli's finest films but it is still wonderfully cute although I gave a copy of this to my girlfriend, I avoided watching it with her so that I wouldn't have to cope with her screams of delight at each individual cat on the screen. The English voice cast is also good and they bring out the fun in the dialogue. Hathaway is a good lead as cute as her character and not labouring under forced depth. Ewles is a perfect Baron and his voice is smooth as you can imagine. Likewise Boyle is a great bit of casting and Gould is a welcome presence even if he has comparatively few lines. Curry is a bit of a disappointment considering how his voice is usually very distinctive but others in the support cast are solid enough.
Those looking for something that can stand alongside the beauty and depth of some of the best films from Ghibli will be disappointed but that is not the same as the film being rubbish. Rather it is a breezy and entertaining film with a fun adventure plot. The animation is very cartoony but this shouldn't matter as it is likely that children will love it. The characters lack depth but work on the level they are drawn while the important ones of Baron and Haru are engaging. Not everything has to be a classic this isn't but it is fun which was enough for me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are a group of fans who believe that Ghibli can do no wrong. Yet
even the studio who gave us classics such as NAUSICAA, PRINCESS
MONONOKE, LAPUTA, and SPIRITED AWAY, are capable of turning out a
second-class effort. THE CAT RETURNS, a curious entry to the Ghibli
library, is one such movie. Directed by newcomer Hiroyuki Morita, this
film is a spin-off of Yoshifumi Kondo's magical WHISPER OF THE
HEART--almost unheard of for a studio that strives on original
The story, which involves a moody high school student whisked away to the Cat Kingdom after she rescues a feline from being run over by a truck, is serviceable but uninspired and predictable in a Disney-ish sort of way--a trait that Miyazaki and Takahata's works never shared, and that is a detriment to this film. The biggest problem I have with the movie is the "believe in yourself" message. Rather than allowing the viewer to watch the struggles of the protagonist and determine what she has to learn in order to return to her homeland, Haru is given this very message verbally about halfway through the movie. Not only does this undermine the theme, it makes the ultimate resolution less satisfactory than it should be.
THE CAT RETURNS is not a bad film by any means. It has its preciously delightful moments (an adorable scene where we see a young girl feeding a small, filthy kitten fish crackers and a very charming ballroom dance sequence), a healthy share of comedy (mostly in the form of a grouchy fat furball named Muta), and one truly memorable character, a suave, splendidly dressed "aristocat" antique by the name of Baron (his presence carries the movie as a whole). But while unquestionably fine for children and families, THE CAT RETURNS is ultimately a weaker effort, both narratively and artistically (the artwork, although colorful and imaginative for the most part lacks the polish that we have come to expect from Ghibli), and consequently, is not especially memorable.
Aurally, THE CAT RETURNS cannot be faulted. The musical score from Yuji Nomi (WHISPER OF THE HEART) is pleasantly orchestral and charming, and the ending theme song which accompanies the closing credits is lovely and catching. And of course, Disney does yet another fabulous job of providing a top-notch cast to translate the movie into English. These include Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, and Elliot Gould. Special credit in particular goes to Cary Elwes (Donald Curtis in PORCO ROSSO), who is perfect as the suave, debonair Baron. On the other side of the spectrum, Anne Hathaway is Haru, although good, sometimes comes across as too whiney. Granted, this is how her character is supposed to be, but it does detract from the likability of the character.
As mentioned, children will obviously enjoy THE CAT RETURNS, but in contrast to the studio's more memorable features, it falls disappointingly short. Although better than the worst animated features out there, THE CAT RETURNS, so far, ranks as the weakest of the Studio Ghibli films. Ghibli completists will pick it up just for the sake of "owning the entire collection", but chances are it be among their top ten lists.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hiroyuki Morita's THE CAT RETURNS is a delightfully engaging children's fantasy from Japanese animation powerhouse 'Studio Ghibli', creators of SPIRITED AWAY. Resurrecting 'The Baron', an aristocratic feline from previous Ghibli release Whispers Of The Heart, this has schoolgirl Haru being, well spirited away into the bizarre 'Kingdom of the Cats' and forced into an arranged marriage with Prince Lune, heir to the moggy throne. As this was the first film from Ghibli since the Academy Award winning Spirited Away, and as the two movies as similar in premise comparisons are inevitable. Although THE CAT RETURNS lacks the thematic depth and lush animation of Miyazaki's film it does possess a certain charm of its own. Sequences such as a nocturnal kitty parade through the sleeping streets or a breathtaking aerial escape with the help of some friendly crows reveal this unassuming little cartoon to possess more undiluted imagination than three Harry Potter films combined. Plenty of sly humour for mum and dad, no mawkish Disney-style song-and-dance numbers and a brisk 75 minute running time combine to make THE CAT RETURNS a family film in the best possible sense. Once again Studio Ghibli prove that rumours concerning the death of traditional cell animation have been wildly exaggerated.
"The Cat Returns" is a beautiful film as one would expect from Studio
Ghibli. It is probably their lightest film to date and certainly the
shortest of the ones available on DVD in the west. I don't think this
is a fault though sometimes that is just what I want in a film.
The plot suggests that it is the sort of film that would only appeal to children: A girl rescues a cat who turns out to be a prince among cats, in return she is invited to marry him and turns to The Cat Business Office for help. While it is obviously ideal for children, it is rated U by the BBFC with the customer advice that it "Contains mild peril" it is also a lot of fun for the older viewer, I laughed out loud several times when I watched it.
People who enjoyed "Whisper of the Heart" may be pleased to see the return of the Baron in a much larger role.
This is director Hiroyuki Morita's only film to date but on the strength of this I'm hoping he will be directing further Studio Ghibli projects.
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