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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hayao Miyazaki's classic anime adventure, Kiki's Delivery Service, is an ideal film for the entire family. Unlike some of his other movies that feature some potentially frightening characters or disturbing scenes, this film is a sweet coming-of-age adventure. Kiki, the 13-year-old protagonist, is a lovely role model. Yes, she's a witch, but she's a good one who doesn't manifest her magical powers in any way but flying. There's some mild flirting and a couple of close calls while Kiki's in the air, but otherwise this is a positive pick that could be a family classic.
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What's the story?
In KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Dunst) follows family tradition and settles for a year in a foreign city to serve as resident witch. She makes friends, finds room and board, and uses her broom-flying ability to launch a delivery service. A boy her age, the aviation buff Tombo (Matthew Laurence), develops a crush on her. As she approaches puberty, Kiki begins to lose her powers. She strikes up a chance friendship with an older girl, the artist Ursula (Janeane Garofalo), who helps Kiki weather her loss of confidence. When a dirigible accident puts Tombo in danger, Kiki must summon up all of her powers to save her friend.
Is it any good?
A huge box office hit in Japan, this is the first film by celebrated animator Hayao Miyazaki to become available in the U.S.; it's part of a deal struck between Disney and Miyazaki's studio. Kiki's Delivery Service is set in a large European metropolis (an amalgam of Stockholm and other cities) in a time period suggesting the 1950s. The attention to detail, particularly in the scenes of Kiki flying over the city streets, rivals that of many a bigger-budgeted Disney feature. Such detail provides important background as small-town girl Kiki gradually acclimates herself to this new, bewildering environment. The film also realistically treats Kiki's growing pains, as she copes with the twin problems of independence and peer group relations. This accounts, in part, for the film's enthusiastic reception by so many young viewers.
This English-dubbed version, released straight-to-video, benefits from well-cast celebrity voices, including Phil Hartman (as Kiki's wisecracking black cat Jiji) and Debbie Reynolds. The Disney version's only serious flaw is the replacement of the Japanese original's delightful opening and closing songs with new, less catchy English-language ones.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does Kiki stay true to her passions of flying and helping people? What are you passionate about? How can you use your strengths and hobbies to help others?
What are the movie's messages about growing up? Can kids relate to Kiki's loss of confidence? What helps her gain back her strength?
What makes a good family movie? What kinds of movies do kids and parents enjoy watching together?
Why do you think this movie is considered an anime classic? How is it different from the majority of Hollywood animated movies?
- In theaters: December 20, 1990
- On DVD or streaming: April 15, 2003
- Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman
- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship
- Character strengths: Courage, Empathy, Humility
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: January 8, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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