Kiki's Delivery Service (G)
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So the other day I was randomly looking at something on IMDb, and came across a trailer for The Secret World of Arrietty, a Ghibli film that hits theaters in the US next February. (I'm writing this review in October 2011, btw.) The trailer made me really eager to see the movie, but I don't imagine I'll be able to see it in a theater, so I'll have to wait for DVD. And it'll probably be on DVD long before I buy it. And once I do buy it, it may be a long time before I get around to watching it. But I thought, at least I have some other Ghibli DVDs I could watch. However, it seems this is the only one of them I haven't reviewed yet. There are several other Ghibli movies I still need to buy someday. Kind of annoyng that the studio keeps makng new movies before I can catch up on the old ones... but mostly I'm really glad they do. Anyway... it's Saturday, which to me means cartoon day. Or perhaps cartoon night. So I thought it'd be good to watch this movie tonight, being in the mood for some Ghibli. And also it's fitting since Halloween will be on Monday, so it kinda makes sense to watch a movie about a witch, even if she's a really sweet little witch.
I first saw this movie on TV a lot of years ago, probably before I ever started reviewing movies on my site. The movie first came out in 1989, in Japan. Disney first released an English dub in 1998, which replaced an earlier English dub by another company. I don't recall when exactly I saw the movie on TV, though I think it was most likely Disney's 1998 version (so, I would have seen it sometime after 1998). But the movie I'll be reviewing is Disney's 2010 release (which should come closer to what the movie is meant to be, but still holds on to some of the changes that had been made earlier). Someday I really should try to check out the original Japanese version, though. According to Wikipedia, there were some definite changes for the English dub, and I'd like to see what it was like before that... of course this DVD has a Japanese language track with English subtitles, but I suspect those subtitles will be more in keeping with the English dub than with accurately translating the Japanese.
Anyway, I started writing this review like a couple hours or so before I plan to start watching the movie. Wanted to at least get the links out of the way so I don't have to worry about that later. And while looking at links I was adding here, I noticed that the movie has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Do you know how often that happens? I don't remember ever seeing that before, but I suppose I may have. It's surely incredibly rare, though. I don't always agree with RT's ratings, though it's not really the website's choice... it's just an aggregate of how many critical reviews of a film are generally positive vs. generally negative. Or whatever. I just want you to stop and think what a 100% fresh rating means. Heh heh heh... I think it means if you don't like this movie, you're just plain wrong. Anyway... okay, enough introing for now. I'll get back to this after watching the movie....
The main character is a witch named Kiki. In the world of this movie, when a witch turns 13, it is traditional for her to leave home, flying on her broom to some new city, to spend a year training. I don't really understand how she's supposed to train, since she apparently doesn't have a spellbook or anything, and it also seems like she's supposed to go to a town or city that doesn't already have any witches (or maybe that was Kiki's choice, I dunno). So, it's not like there's any way for her to study witchcraft. And Kiki never does anything that seems to me to have anything to do with witchcraft or training of any kind, other than flying on her broom. (While the movie specifically mentions training, that could be a poor translation; I think it's more likely the tradition is simply to live for a year on her own.) Anyway, she's not very good at flying, and I don't know if I can say she'd gotten much better at it by the end of the movie, though it is pretty integral to the plot that she can fly. Aside from flying, there are a couple other witchlike traits. For example, she does have to wear a plain black dress, and she wishes she could wear something prettier; but that's a very minor plot point. (She does at least wear a red bow in her hair the whole time.) Also, she has a black cat named Jiji, whose speech she can understand, which is the only other witchly power she displays.
Anyway, Kiki soon finds a city by the sea, which she chooses as her home for the year, though Jiji doesn't like it. (The fictional city is called Koriko, though that's not mentioned in the movie. It's based on various European cities, mostly Visby and Stockholm, in Sweden.) Things are a bit overwhelming for Kiki at first, but she soon meets a woman named Osono, who works in a bakery, and lets Kiki stay in a room in the attic. (Osono is pregnant, but it's not a major story point. Her husband also works in the bakery, but I don't think his name was ever mentioned, and he doesn't say much in the movie.) Kiki helps out in the bakery, in exchange for room and board. She also starts her own delivery service, which she runs out of the bakery. Also, when she first got to town, she met a boy named Tombo, who takes an immediate liking to her. Kiki, however, doesn't like him at first; but later on they do become friends. Kiki also meets a woman who lives in the forest, a painter whose name I don't think was ever used in the movie, though Wikipedia calls her Ursula. (The movie is to some degree based on a book, though apparently there were some changes.) She'll eventually help Kiki with a problem she has later on, though I won't spoil that.
Um, anyway, the actual plot is pretty thin. Not a whole lot really happens, though there is a dramatic scene at the end, in which Kiki has to rescue Tombo from a dangerous situation. Won't reveal the nature of that situation, though it had pretty much been built up to by something heard about, in the background, throughout the film. I should say the movie's set in the 1950s or 60s in Europe, though that wasn't really clear... again, it's something I learned from Wikipedia. There are elements of the 1940s or earlier, but... apparently it's an alternate universe where neither World War ever happened. Which isn't really surprising; that fact may not be alluded to in any way in the movie, but just in general, it seems like a much nicer and simpler world than the one we live in. People can still be mean or whatever, but I don't think anyone really seems like they could have huge conflicts. I mean, the existence of witches is just accepted by everyone with perfect equanimity. Some people, like Tombo... well, in fact most of the characters... see witches as pretty cool. Though this may be in part because the city where Kiki settled hadn't seen witches, perhaps for a few generations. So Kiki was something of a novelty, to them, though it's not like they hadn't heard of witches. Anyway, my point is witches are just people, and I seriously doubt this world ever had anything like witch hunts or persecution. Not sure what else to say... it's just a sweet, simple movie, with pleasant characters. And um, it's sort of a coming of age story for Kiki (which makes one other thing I read on Wikipedia believable, even if I never noticed the slightest hint of it in the movie; but maybe that's just because I'm terribly unobservant). Anyway... like I said at the outset, it's made by Studio Ghibli, and all their movies are great (beautifully animated and scored, with enchanting stories). Especially if directed by Hayao Miyazaki, as this one is. So, you just should watch them all, okay?