Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Rating: D-

Dir: Hayao Miyazaki
Star (voice): Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Kappei Yamaguchi

Japan Times, August 29, 1989 – “In his latest film, Miyazaki reaches new heights of not only physical but psychological realism…Miyazaki explores states usually considered the province of ‘live’ movies…”Kiki’s Delivery Service” is more than a place to park the kids for two hours – it is a surprisingly moving celebration of the animator’s art that deserves a wider audience”.

Hmmm. Well, each to their own. Perhaps a more telling quote is one from an interview Miyazaki gave in October 1989, when he said, “I want to see whether or not I can make a movie without any action”. I think “Kiki” probably just about counts. But I could live without that – after all, ‘Totoro’ is not exactly action-packed – if there was something to compensate for it. And that’s where “Kiki” fails to deliver(!): the characters are distinctly ho-hum, the plot is distinctly ho-hum and only the animation itself is anything above average.

Trainee witch Kiki goes to the city to seek her fortune. She meets some people. She has some mild adventures (losing her cat, for example). She finds she can be happy despite her lack of spell-casting ability. If this sounds like a pretty naff TVM, I’m pitching it about right. Remove all conflict and struggle from a movie and it takes very careful plot and character design to hold the audience’s interest. ‘Totoro’ managed it because every sequence held a wonderful surprise, but, in Kiki, everything pans out exactly as you’d expect, and the result as far as I’m concerned is Miyazaki’s most forgettable movie to date