Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Starring the voices of (US dub) Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille, Matthew Lawrence, and Janeane Garofalo
On the day that I learned of the impending retirement of Hayao Miyazaki, I wanted to take the time to review yet another Studio Ghibli title. But before I do, I'd like to pay tribute to the great Japanese director.
If I think about my favorite directors, Miyazaki would be high on the list. He might not be number one, but he's probably brought me more pure joy than any other director. Miyazaki has 11 features to his credit as a director, along with several shorts and TV series. He's also written screenplays for other Studio Ghibli directors, including Whisper of the Heart, From Up on Poppy Hill and The Secret World of Arrietty.
All of those movies have the unmistakable Miyazaki feel. His films usually feature strong female characters, elements of fantasy, and a feeling of innocence and purity that is lacking in animated films from other studios. I'm happy that he can finally enjoy his retirement, but I'm sad that the upcoming The Wind Rises will be his last film.
But let's talk about Kiki's Delivery Service.
Although my favorite Studio Ghibli title changes depending on my mood, Kiki's Delivery Service is one of several titles from the studio that I would rate as perfect. Kiki (Dunst) is a 13-year-old witch who is about to leave home for one year to further her training. She takes Jiji (Hartman), her black cat, and finds a town where she can settle. Her mother makes potions, but Kiki is unsure what services she will provide, until an opportunity presents itself. She returns a pacifier to a young mother and realizes that she can make her living by flying all over town to deliver other items.
Like most Ghibli worlds, the people in Kiki's new town are kind and generous. She's given a place to stay by Osono (MacNeille), who runs the local bakery. In return, she'll mind the store on occasion and deliver things for its customers. The locals are all impressed by her ability to fly, but it's her character that eventually charms most of them. She's simply a good person, and everyone she comes into contact with likes her.
One boy, Tombo (Lawrence) develops a crush the moment he sees her, and tries to get to know her better as the story progresses. Like Hayao Miyazaki, Tombo has a fascination with flying. He's trying to build a machine that will do just that, and he's eager to show his work to Kiki.
There are no villains of any kind, but the story does contain moments of peril. However, I would recommend Kiki's Delivery Service to anyone, whether they are four years old or over 80. It's the kind of movie that will make you smile right from the start, and keep delighting you throughout the 103 minutes. Phil Hartman has most of the best lines, and some of his remarks provide the funniest moments.
I recently loaned the movie to a friend and her 5-year-old insisted on watching it three times. As soon as I got it back, I was compelled to watch it again myself.
There is no North American Blu-ray at the time of writing, but you can import it from Japan if you require a Region A disc. It's also available in other parts of the world, including the UK (Region B locked). I suspect a North American release will happen next summer.
I'll close by thanking Hayao Miyazaki for Kiki's Delivery Service and the many other memorable titles he has been involved with. I can't imagine another animation studio coming close to his lofty achievements.
Overall score 5/5
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