This film doesn’t have a complicated plot, nor too much in the way of conflict really, and it doesn’t have the multiple layers of depth which many Ghibli films do, instead it succeeds with simplicity and warmth. Kiki is a young witch who must leave home in order to experience independent life in a new town. The adventures she goes on with Jiji her cat are not as overtly magical as say the children’s in My Neighbor Totoro, but somehow the film discovers the inner child within you, quietly infusing moments with the special sense of wonderment that’s particular to childhood.
The film does probe at questions about the clash between tradition and modernity, and although this is an interesting aspect of the film, its the coming of age tale and everything that is associated with it which is most engaging here. The story is Kiki’s development as she learns about herself and her powers, there are few big plot developments as such which results in a rather gentle film. I think it is this factor which makes a fair few people tend to criticise Kiki, without some harder hitting element underlying the film as in Totoro or Mononoke it can seem a little too light but I couldn’t disagree more. That light touch is what makes the film such a particularly enjoyable experience.
As to the cast I shall here be referring to the American dub of the film as supposed to the original film. Kirsten Dunst does a good job as Kiki herself. She invests the character with the right level of childishness, never condescendingly portraying a child simplistically, but neither does she overplay the adult qualities to Kiki. It’s actually quite a hard balance to strike and she does it well here. The other cast member who needs to be mentioned is Phil Hartman as Jiji the cat. He is wonderful in the role of comic sidekick here, and makes Jiji just as memorable a character as his owner.
Kiki’s Delivery Service may not be Ghibli’s absolute brightest jewel, leave that title to be battled out between Spirited Away, Toroto and possibly Princess Mononoke, instead it is a warm and loving movie which leaves you with a smile across your face whether your age is ninety-four or just four. If you haven’t seen it yet and it has caught your interest then I thoroughly recommend that you take the time to check this one out! If you have seen it already well then why not see it again?
What is the film’s greatest strength? The film’s ability to charm you with it’s ability to generate genuine childlike joy.
Its greatest weakness? This is one of those cases where I don’t really have a meaningful criticism to make.
Would I see it again? Absolutely, like many Ghibli films this can be re-watched endlessly.
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