This is the first draft for one of my site reviews, the edited version of which can be found HERE. I didn't want to erase this version because people have commented on it, which I like. :3
Well hot damn, another Miyazaki film that I can appreciate (and not even in that begrudging “well, I suppose it’s a quality film, but golly it put me to sleep faster than something that puts me to sleep pretty fast” way).
Kiki’s Delivery Service is, first and foremost, a children’s film. From the eighties. Also it’s a coming-of-age story, and unless those are done reeeeeeeally well, they’re frightfully dull. So I was willing to cut it some slack (but only a very meager amount, because I’m a giant grump, and also my semester just started again). And really, the slice-of-life portions of the film were pulled-off stunningly. Kiki’s trials adjusting to her new living situation, financial difficulties, and being (sort of) on her own for the first time managed to interest me to the point where I could overlook most all the happy coincidences she ran into (“why no, there aren’t any witches living here, so why don’t you!” and “well, honey, you can live in my house for FREE!”). I just sat there with this big silly grin on my face because somehow all the boring things this boring girl did felt really fresh and deserved my full attention (I don’t get it, either).
The contrived climax at the end, however, was completely unnecessary, and substantially detracted from the film’s value. When Kiki’s [SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER], I couldn’t help but lose interest and think that, yeah, I’ve seen that all before, booooooring. Sure, the movie’s a bit aged, but that climax (and it’s resolution, which was similarly handled in the most cliché and over-used way possible) was nothing new in the 80s, either, dear.
That town is handsome. For realsies. No wonder Kiki fell in love with it.
As for the animation- it’s a Ghibli film. It looks like a Ghibli film. And for once, I mean that in the most sincere, complimentary way possible. The character designs are adorable. The backgrounds are über-gorgeous. Movement is consistently fluent. It’s like Studio Ghibli has this whole thing down to some sort of movie-animating science. Or witchcraft, I’ve yet to decide which. I’m not giving this top marks because it didn’t have that extra something-something that makes it stand out from everything ever made ever, but nonetheless it was incredibly solid.
Another thing I actually like about Ghibli, is the ace casting (and with that giant budget I know they’ve got, of course they’re gonna hire the best). Additionally, in typical Disney dub fashion, the dub voices are all sorts of super. Only the most hardened anti-dub fanatic could find fault with it. Or, you know, if you can’t appreciate Phil Hartman’s possibly abrasive performance as Jiji.
Quite the mixed bag. Kiki was the standard Studio Ghibli female protagonist- vaguely spunky, eternally optimistic, and sporting youthful attractiveness and a personality virtually indistinguishable from the likes of Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, Totoro’s Satsuki, a potato, or any of the oodles of Ghibli leading-lady clones. Hell, even the Disney princesses have more variation (and I’m not just referring to their wardrobes, either). This is really my major gripe with Studio Ghibli in general, and Miyazaki in particular. Making two decades+ of movies with the exact same heroine is ridiculous. At the very least, please toss in some interesting character flaws (and no, Kiki’s eye roll-inducing conduct towards Tombo doesn’t count).
Jiji, however, I adored. Disney’s dub was especially kind to him, as it gave him this really great smarmy voice that really augmented his constant chiding of Kiki and absolutely everything she set her mind to. It’s like he was saying everything I was thinking, albeit in a more irritating and plot-relevant manner!
The characters that were more secondary to the plot were decent but forgettable. You’ve got your standard “nice old lady”, “guy who looks big and scary but is actually nice”, “lady who is so nice, you wonder why she hasn’t been robbed blind yet”, and “person who is nice and has no other distinguishing characteristics”.
Free from the environmental themes that usually plague Miyazaki’s work, Kiki’s Delivery Service is actually a fairly endearing film. Unfortunately, like most of the studio’s work, if you didn’t grow up watching the film, it’s rather more difficult to enjoy, as much of its charm is culled from nostalgia.