Rambling Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service

Warning: Not an overly complex plot to spoil but there will be some spoilers.

I haven’t done a film review in a while, and I was so…confused by the overwhelming response to Kiki’s Delivery Service, a 1989 animated film from Studio Ghibli, that I was compelled to write about it.

Maybe some of it has to do with age. As an adult versus being a preteen, which is when this film should be watched, it spoke to me differently. My introduction to the work of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki was Howl’s Moving Castle, a dark and strange film but intriguing and beautifully drawn.  The studio has a glowing reputation, so much so a theme park dedicated to their films is planned for 2022, and after Howl’s I wanted to watch more.  With the disappearance of video rental brick and mortars, finding these imports via streaming services was difficult until HBO Max finally brought them stateside.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is the story of 13 year old Kiki, who according to tradition, must spend a year away from home to train to become a witch.  With her friend-cat, Jiji, Kiki finds herself in a seaside town reminiscent of various European towns set in the 1950s.  Kiki’s story is a coming of age tale, the desire for independence and social acceptance while learning to embrace what makes you special.  While all of this is well and good, the glaring problems overshadowed the simple plot, and I couldn’t get over them the entire movie. 

The film is based on a novel, so maybe some of the issues I have with the story are better explained in the book but this is a film review, so we’ll work with said material.

Kiki is preparing for her yearlong study abroad when the film opens.  Her mother remarks that she hasn’t had time to train her and her father asks her to write to them, if she can. This led me to believe that wherever Kiki was going, she would most likely be busy and ill prepared.  What we learn is that there is no real preparation for Kiki’s training.  There is no guardian awaiting her arrival, no school to attend, not even a mentor or senior witch waiting to teach her their knowledge or skills. She doesn’t have a place to stay lined up, nor even an inkling of an idea as to where she’s going.  She is just sent out into the world under the guise that she will teach herself what she needs to know wherever she ends up.

What?! 

Her only witch talent is flying, and initially she isn’t even very good at that. The only other indication of any special ability is that she can communicate with her cat.

Fate clearly plays a part in her journey as it allows her to find herself in a nice place with kind people who look after her, but I couldn’t get over the fact that her parents sent her away without knowing if she would be okay, for a year, with a sandwich, a bit of pocket money, and the promise that she would write when she could. This was problem number one for me.

Problem number two – how do you train to become a witch without someone to advise you?  How do you discover your talents or abilities without someone challenging you to explore what you’re capable of? She has no teacher, not even a book to use as a reference, and apparently her mother ignored the lessons she was supposed to impart, but sure, go out into the world and be a witch.

Problem number three – she isn’t given any challenges where she might learn another ability, or at least attempt to discover some hidden talent, she just flies on a broom, which is fine, but given the premise of the film, she should be learning more. I understand that this is probably a metaphor for finding your place in the world, just as you are, but I just think that with a character defined as a witch, she should have been more inclined to magic.

She creates her “delivery service”, a business delivering goods around town using her flying in order to survive in this new place. She meets new people who challenge her and introduce her to new things, and as she comes of age, struggling to maintain her confidence and her desire to fit in, which are universal themes, she stumbles and has to ask herself a question that often plagues us – are we good enough?

While I appreciated the themes, I think they could have been executed differently. As a writer, I often wonder how a story could have better approached a topic because it’s a world I want to be a part of. I could not get past the problems which I found to be irresponsible, bordering on dangerous. At one point, Kiki hitchhikes with a woman who lives alone in the woods. What sort of message is that?

Now, I understand this is an animated tale, and fantasy at that, but the audience for which it is intended is impressionable. I may be overly sensitive. While I didn’t hashtag the MeToo movement, I do have a number of my own stories, and sending a child out into the world without any protections, under some misguided pretenses, is just not a story I can get on board with.

Well, that’s a whole lot of ramble and I didn’t even get to a couple of the things I had initially planned on.

Have you watched Kiki’s Delivery Service? How old were you when you watched it? Do you think that makes a difference? Share your thoughts.

The 2020 “One Movie a Week” Challenge Part I

I’m a little behind this year. By nearly 3 months = 12 movies. Eek! We’ve been watching more television and a lot of home renovation/home buying shows because we’re ready to settle down and call a place home.

Sometimes I’ve thrown on something mindless…because it’s 2020. Don’t judge me. We didn’t start out avoiding drama and the like, but too much seriousness left us feeling emotional in an already emotionally strung out existence, so we tried to find more casual, fun type fare on occasion, but that means we’ve watched a lot of subpar movies.

I’m going to use a simple ABC rating system and not review them individually this time. The letter grade should offer enough insight as to my feelings.

  1. Alita: Battle AngelA
  2. MoanaA
  3. To All the Boys I’ve Loved BeforeB
  4. Kissing BoothD
  5. Falling Inn LoveC
  6. Toy Story 4B
  7. Inside OutA
  8. Frozen IIC
  9. Into the SpiderverseA
  10. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before 2C
  11. Hobbs and ShawC
  12. AnnaB
  13. ProspectB
  14. Mission: Impossible – FalloutC
  15. Tron: LegacyC
  16. Bird BoxD
  17. Midnight SpecialB
  18. The PlatformC
  19. AniaraD
  20. The Old GuardB
  21. BumblebeeC
  22. The Big SickC
  23. The Half of ItB
  24. Knives OutB
  25. Jojo RabbitA
  26. VenomC
  27. Enola HolmesB
  28. UsC
  29. Men in Black: InternationalC
  30. The Amazing SpidermanC
  31. LovebirdsB
  32. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesC
  33. Hocus PocusC (This one is sort of a cheat as I have seen it before but not since its release. I barely remembered any of it, and it does not hold up.)

As it’s now the end of October, and the last few months have felt like an eternity, some of these viewings are a little blurry at this point but I’m fairly secure in these ratings.

I would love some suggestions for the remainder of the year. What movies have you enjoyed?

The 2019 “One Movie A Week” Challenge Completed

MovieReelI did it!  I accomplished my goal of one new movie a week!  I actually slightly exceeded it with 53 movies, the last just narrowly sneaking in on New Year’s Eve.

I’m sticking with the “ABC” grading scale and will give just a simple overview as many of my posts recently have been rather long and involved.  Looking back on all I’ve watched this year, it’s rather sad to find how few of them were stellar endeavors.

31. What Happened to Monday: An interesting premise of septuplets born when overpopulation has mandated a one child per regulation.  Noomi Rapace plays all the siblings who must discover what happened when one goes missing.  My rating: B-

32. Ralph Breaks the Internet: When Vanellope’s vintage game is broken, she and Ralph must find the part to keep her racing.  A cute follow-up to the original, with some clever references to keep all ages entertained; I just didn’t think it had as much heart as the first.  My rating: B

33. Crazy Rich Asians: The clichéd story of a woman marrying a wealthy man and concerns about the family not accepting her is exactly that.  While everyone was thrilled with the representation, that shouldn’t overshadow the lack of a well rounded story.  It’s also a bit too long, and feels it.  My rating: C

34. Aquaman: What can be said about the origin story of one of the least liked DC characters nobody asked for?  The movie is too long, too convoluted, and an assault of CGI “magic”.  The only reason anyone even bothered is Jason Momoa.  My rating: D

35. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Every once in a while you just need a sweet movie without a lot of substance, which is surprising given its setting.  Set after the German occupation of Guernsey, a Channel Island during WWII, a young writer befriends villagers who started a book club and of course, finds love.  My rating: B

36. Bad Times at the El Royale: I didn’t know what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t what I got.  Desperate to follow in Tarantino’s footsteps, this film about strangers converging at a strange motel that straddles state lines is a bit of mess that doesn’t tie up all its loose ends.  My rating: C-

37. Bohemian Rhapsody: There is no dismissing Rami Malek’s performance as the charismatic lead of the band Queen, but it felt like the filmmakers played it safe.  Not wanting to, possibly, turn people off from any negativity associated with Freddie’s life, they jump cut around instead, showcasing the music, without a lot of substance.  My rating: B

38. Fighting with My Family: I grew up watching the WWF, now WWE, with my grandfather.  I still tune in every now and then, and Paige, for whom the film is based on, is among one of my “newer” favorites.  As the youngest wrestler to be signed, it was touching to see how it all began.  My rating: B

39. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum: Not my favorite in the franchise, but still a pretty entertaining shoot ’em up movie with a few new twists to keep it interesting.  Since the films continue in sequence, it’s hard not to appreciate Wick’s skill as the formidable hit man on the run.  My rating: B-

40. Tall Girl: I, myself, am a tall girl.  I’m 6′ and have been since I was 16 years old.  I’ve heard all the same jokes, and had to deal with feeling like the jolly Green Giant among pretty much everyone I know while wearing men’s jeans because they had an inseam measurement.  While I appreciate the message of accepting who you are, because you really can’t do anything about your height, the movie is just…blah.  My rating: C-

41. The Favourite: Courts are notorious for their backstabbing and conniving, but I was hoping for more from this film than just that.  Women have a reputation where other women are concerned, and in a time when we need to be more supportive, on the whole, this film about taking advantage of an already fragile person, was uncomfortable to watch at times.  Olivia Colman is an amazing actress, and fully deserving of the accolades.  My rating: B

42. Spider-Man: Far From Home: First off, I want to put Tom Holland in my pocket.  In the wake of Avengers: Endgame, poor Peter is struggling to find his place and just wants to spend some time with his friends, but where superheroes travel, chaos is soon to follow.  An entertaining follow-up in the MCU and development for a beloved character as he comes into his own.  My rating: B+

43. Mary Queen of Scots:  If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know I’m fascinated with Queen Elizabeth I.  This film takes a look at the relationship between the queen and one of her biggest rivals, Queen Mary of Scotland, played by two wonderful actresses, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie.  I’ll watch anything where the Queen is concerned, in spite of uneven storytelling.  My rating: B-

44. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part: Another sequel that lacked the heart of the first.  The Lego citizens face a new threat and must find a way of coexisting with their “enemy”.  While still a cute movie with a sweet message, it was fun to watch, if not sort of forgettable.  My rating: B

45. Glass: Having not seen the original in this strange trilogy, Unbreakable, I don’t have all the information to grade this film as part of a whole.  I found some aspects entertaining, a film with a variation on the comic book figure, and I appreciate some of the risks taken, but overall there felt like there was something missing.  My rating: B-

46. Fallen: I knew this was going to be a bad movie, and it was.  I’ve always enjoyed the tale of the star crossed lovers, but this story, based on a YA series of novels was unmoving, the actors were dull, and just when it started to move in a slightly interesting direction, it was over.  My rating: D

47. Shazam: I was unfamiliar with this superhero character prior to the film.  My only reference was from the TV show Archer on a few occasions. The story of a young boy who gains powers which transform him into a fully grown, muscle bound man was more interesting than I would have guessed.  There’s also a sweet message about family.  My rating: B

48. It Chapter 2: The story of the child eating clown continues as the Losers, now grown up, must return to the beginning to finish what they started as a new cycle begins.  Casting did a great job with the grown versions of the children, but this movie failed to recapture the fun of the first one.  My rating: B-

49. Dumplin’:  I love me a drag queen, and in the preview for this movie, a few help to inspire a teen girl overcome body image issues and compete in a beauty contest run by her once beauty queen mother.  My rating: B+

50. Let it Snow: This teen holiday film about a group of friends finding love was a story that didn’t really do anything different and was actually fairly dull and forgettable.  My rating: D

51. Knight Before Christmas: I followed one bad movie with another.  A knight is sent forward in time on a quest and finds love with a modern day woman who’s been romance deprived.  Meh.  My rating: D

52. Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of the Skywalker: Oh, where to begin…if you’re not a fan, you’ve probably still seen some of the reviews, or heard the hubbub over how fans are disappointed.  This fan included.  The final episode in the latest trilogy initially seemed better than reviewed but as I continued to think on it, I realized how much was missing among so many other things.  My rating: C

53. Love and Friendship: A Jane Austen story I wasn’t familiar with, Lady Susan – surprising, I know.  Upon the viewing, I wish I did know more because the way it was filmed was a bit confusing.  Lady Susan is conniving and manipulating.  It appears as if she’s out for herself, which she is, but she also is looking out for her daughter, in a strange way.  I’ll give it another watch after a read and see if it improves.  My rating: B-

If you’d like to see what else I watched this year, here are parts One and Two of the series.  Do you agree with my ratings?  Would you like to offer any recommendations as I endeavor into the new year?