A review by Nalini Haynes
- Director: Hiroyuki Morita
- Produced by Studio Ghibli
- Writers: Aoi Hiiragi (comic), Reiko Yoshida (screenplay);
- English version: Cindy Davis Hewitt, Donald H. Hewitt
- Starring: Anne Hathaway, Andrew Bevis, Tim Curry, Rene Auberjonois, Peter Boyle, Cary Elwes, Elliott Gould…
- Watch this if you like: Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth, Arriety
Haru (Anne Hathaway) is a shy school girl daydreaming about meeting her Prince Charming until she saves Prince Lune of the Cat Kingdom (Andrew Bevis), thereby winning the prince’s paw in marriage.
Incorrigible, the cat king (Tim Curry!) – looking more like a stray than a king – won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. His sidekick and major domo, Natori, is voiced by the irrepressible Rene Auberjonois, sounding just as disapproving as Odo from Deep Space 9.
Haru hears a voice telling her to seek help from the Cat Bureau so she sets off on a figurative yellow brick road to meet Muta (Peter Boyle), the Baron (Cary Elwes) and Toto (Elliott Gould).
With all the Alice in Wonderland references they couldn’t resist naming a character after Toto!
The Cat Returns is a spin-off from Whisper of the Heart but it’s not necessary to have watched the previous movie. Made in 2002, the Cat Returns references several iconic works with which you’re probably familiar like Alice in Wonderland and Labyrinth.
Balancing surrealism against a coherent plot, the Cat Returns walks the tightrope right to the end. Wonderland is evoked in dreamlike sequences when, for example, Haru crawls inside the Cat Bureau for a tea party. The cake was a lie because Haru was snatched away before eating any then she was dragged through a portal…
Geeks must watch this movie just for the fan services!
Haru, her mother and Yuki (a female cat), get the Cat Returns over the Bechdel Test line with conversations that don’t concern men. Even better, Haru refuses to marry the prince, developing into an independent young woman.
The Cat Returns is animated in a recognisable Studio Ghibli style similar to Arriety, Tales of Earthsea and Howl’s Moving Castle. This gentle story is suitable for quite a young audience while sufficiently complex and engaging to satisfy older viewers as well.
The Cat Returns has been rereleased on bluray. It holds up quite well in this format on a large screen.
A trailer is available on the Madman website.
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 out of 5 stars.