How’s this for a cold open: Kiki’s Delivery Service has an astounding 97% on the good old Rotten Tomatoes. It has one rotten review that has it at a 2/4. This one negative review is from certainly an interesting critic; look no further than their 2016 Best & Worst Films. The same year that: Zootopia, Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Secret Life of Pets, The Red Turtle, Your Name, A Silent Voice, and In This Corner of the World… your favorite animated movie was FINDING DORY?!?!?! Not only that but it’s the 3rd best film of the year? I hate implying that someone has bad taste or that there’s an objectively right/wrong opinion because honestly you can like whatever you like…. BUT FINDING DORY?!?! I seriously think you should have your head examined if you think Finding Dory is top 3 in anything. I don’t even think it’s in the top 3 in the Finding Nemo franchise and there’s only two of them. You might be thinking that it’s one of the best films starring Ellen DeGeneres but I’m a need you to never disrespect Mr. Wrong and the Coneheads again.
I guess that’s the problem when you put as much effort into what you call a “review” as I did into a nonsensical tangent paragraph and slap a random number at the end… you lack consistency. Quite frankly, I start to question your merits as a legitimate critic when you give something like Kiki’s Delivery Service the same score as Aladdin. I’m sorry I misread my script, when you give it the same score as Aladdin and the King of Thieves….
The Bottom Line:
A simple tale full of well-aged charm; Kiki delivers the wholesome goods you’ve come to know from Ghibli or will learn to love for the first time.
Kiki the adolescent witch travels to a new town and endures the growing pains of claiming independence through her occupation as an air delivery service.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is an uncanny film, one that made me feel nostalgic for it, despite the fact that I had not seen it prior. I miss a time before film school and film critics taught everyone that anything that doesn’t follow The Hero’s Journey is doing it wrong. That a film didn’t have to be about saving the world from impeding doom but could just be a relaxing viewing experience of following a charming protagonist and how they learn from overcoming minor inconveniences. I missed seeing 2D animation on the big screen, especially one as whimsical as following Kiki through her dynamic flight patterns. I think the aspect that really made an impact was that I missed hearing all of these talent voices. Often the unsung heroes, I know they don’t fill the seats as Tom Holland playing animated Tom Holland or The Rock but I genuinely missed getting to hear the familiar voices of Kath Soucie, Jeff Bennett, Tress MacNeille, and especially the late Debbie Reynolds among many others was an utter joy.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is really just a thinly veiled love-letter to this setting of an ocean-side city. The film certainly uses it’s scenic location to the fullest extent of exploration that it really feels like the storyboards were composited from travel brochures. At points it feels that there could have been some deviation to contrast locations from one another, but the overall homogeneous of setting comes with a familiarity and eventual coziness to the small peninsula town.
My nostalgic lamenting and love-letter accusations actually fit the film well, as one of the major themes is to respect and value things of the past or beyond their face value. As a more mature audience member I can understand the moral implications of scenes but there’s something commendable about how Miyazaki goes about not necessarily preaching but crafting scenes that younger audiences will internalize the messages. Kiki never goes around berating these ungrateful brats who don’t seem to appreciate the gifts their family had sent out to them, but by seeing the genuine and caring person the sender is the audience hopefully recognizes to be more grateful. There’s plenty of instances where newer isn’t always better, such as when Kiki initially takes her mother’s broom over her newly constructed one, and a fire-place oven being used after the failure of an electrical oven. The artifacts of old may become obsolete, but that might not take away their inherent value. We may gawk and awe at the big city that the other snooty Judy witch goes to, but that doesn’t take away the quaint allure of this humble town. The way the aviator club is inspired by early air travel prototypes, there is still something to learn or even cherish from even the most rudimentary of constructions.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is this adorable journey of a young girl proving her independence, but beneath the surface Kiki’s journey is an introspective piece from the author. Kiki’s Delivery Service says a lot about the creative process and even assuming a career in a broader sense. Kiki reflects fearing the effects of mixing work with pleasure and the possibility of witnessing the creative magic disappear. One could draw parallels between Kiki’s status as a witch to Miyazaki as a writer/director and how they address the label. Kiki seems to have some degree of public anxiety stemming from the clothes and presentation of being a witch. Kiki also confesses at one point not enjoying the act of taking flight as much now that it is her job. Kiki’s non-traditional story structure stems from the conceit of the film being that it’s essentially an allegory for entering the workforce and how diligence and endurance ultimately ends in a rewarding experience.
That’s how I look a Kiki’s Delivery Service, a testament to an older generation that might not be the most treasured of gifts but a genuine and ultimately rewarding gift. The music throughout is an endearing and uplifting track that gives the film an appropriately fun texture. Jiji steals the show as the sarcastic wisecracking black cat – I can’t tell if that stems from everyone in my theater obviously having seen the film before and laughing at every time he spoke…. Or if I was just enamored with an animal sidekick that actually has an enjoyable personality and isn’t just for marketing material of a cute animal/thing. Kiki lacks much stakes or tension but the charming elements make you want to grab your broomstick and take to the skies alongside her, and to me that makes for one enjoyable ride.
Production company: Studio Ghibli, Kiki’s Delivery Service Production Committee
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Matthew Lawrence, Debbie Reynolds
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Story by: Eiko Kadono
Written by: Jack Fletcher, John Semper, Hayao Miyazaki
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cinematography by: Shigeo Sugimura
Film Editing by: Takeshi Seyama
Rated G, 103 minutes