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Parents' Guide to

Spirited Away

By Liz Perle, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Magnificent movie with scary creatures and a strong heroine.

Movie PG 2002 125 minutes
Spirited Away Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 8+

Based on 85 parent reviews

age 10+

Wacky and Wonderful for Over 10

This movie is really wacky, but since it's by Miyazaki, it is beautifully wacky. I began to wonder if there were some mushrooms involved in its creation. I'm a big Miyazaki fan and originally bought this dvd for my 10 year old after reading the CSM rating and parent comments. I forgot about that plan and we watched this for family movie night. Both of my kids (ages (just turned) 7 and 10) found it disturbing. The 10 year old was ready to pull the plug early in the film out of boredom, but later he found it upsetting. I'm glad we stuck with it and saw the plot resolve; I think it would have been more troubling if we had not. My 10 year old is pretty sensitive, and did have nightmares after seeing this movie right before bed. The part that was most disturbing to my guys is when Chihiro's parents can't stop eating and are turned into pigs. They are then whipped by the restaurateur as they try to continue eating. That part was intense for both of them. We took a break midway through the film and both kids were hugging me saying, "I never want you to turn into a pig!" The frightening elements for young kids include: the fact that Chihiro is separated from her parents (and they are turned into pigs) for the whole movie; Chihiro is alone in a (very) strange place and is visibly frightened for much of the film. She is at the mercy of and mistreated by many characters early on; and her internal compass is superior to that of her parents and other authority figures. These ideas, particularly the last one, are scary and confusing for young kids. For these reasons I agree with CSM's 11 year old rating. There are some other creepy characters - namely Yubaba and No Face. Having said all of that, the quality of the film is superior, though the content is strange. I don’t regret that my kids saw it, but I’m glad I was right there with them, and I anticipate much conversation about it for a long time. In some ways this movie is on par with a movie like Pinocchio – not a pleasant experience for a young child, but the messages are loud and clear. As always, Miyazaki does a brilliant job of evoking a wide range of emotions using sounds like foot steps, silence, wind, and voices. The movie is visually stunning, like all of his films. The evolution of the characters is well done and the viewer feels part of that experience emotionally and sensually. And, even though Chihiro finds herself in frightening and perilous situations, she becomes calmer and more convicted as the story goes on, and we get to watch that transformation. There are so many lessons and themes that run through the film. Particularly reflective of the Asian culture, is that Chihiro's success comes from constantly consulting her inner compass, and having a care about her actions, often using deference as a strategy to persevere. We rarely see such protagonists in American films. She does not get caught up in the material pursuits of the people around her and stays true to her heart. I particularly appreciate the cultivation and manifestation of love in this film. It is very true and in no way sexual, which again, is rarely seen in American films, unless the love is parent/child or sibling related. In summary, I think this is an amazing film, on par with Eraserhead for its eccentricity, and typical of the high quality we expect from Miyazaki. I recommend this movie for everyone ages 11 and up. It’s probably OK for younger kids, depending on your kids, but I highly recommend that you watch it with them, and I wouldn't go below 7 or 8.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
11 people found this helpful.
age 9+

Spirits and Monsters

"I would never let you turn into pigs," my son told me after watching this film. My three-year-old found the first scenes frightening and didn't want to watch, so we turned it off. About 8 months later he was interested again. He said it was "spooky" (a good thing) and watched it twice over the course of a week. He now says it's one of his favorite movies. It is thematically complicated and visually stunning. It is not appropriate for all young children. The suggested age of 9 is probably about right, but if your pre-schooler likes ghosts and monsters as mine does, he/she might enjoy this. Don't let your kid watch it alone. It's intense and raises a lot of questions.
3 people found this helpful.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (85 ):
Kids say (265 ):

This is a thrilling, spectacularly beautiful movie, though it's not for little kids who get scared. Despite the animation similarities, Spirited Away is not Totoro, the beloved "feel-good" classic, but an edgy portrayal of what a young girl needs to do to grow up and take responsibility for more than herself. She fights Yubaba, she rescues Haku and aids a wounded spirit, triumphing where others do not because she is not sidetracked by greed. Those old enough to handle the movie's more intense visuals will be rewarded by a compelling story -- and by the dazzling quality of animation that Studio Ghibli is well known for.

Excellent voice-overs are provided by Daveigh Chase as Chihiro, Jason Marsden as Haku, Suzanne Pleshette as Yubaba, Michael Chiklis as Chihiro's father, Lauren Holly as Chihiro's mother, and John Ratzenberger as the Assistant Manager. John Lasseter of Toy Story fame directed the English voices.

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