DVD Review: Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) -- Special Edition

Now Available to Own

Hayao Miyazaki Photo Slideshow

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AKA: Witch's Delivery Service

You have to hand it to Kiki. When Harry Potter left the cupboard under the stairs to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, powerful and protective adults supervised him.

As a thirteen-year-old witch who can barely ride a broom, can't mix potions, and is unsure just what exactly she possesses as her special gift, Kiki has a far more daunting task ahead of her.

Shortly into Hayao Miyazaki's delightful 1989 box office sensation, released in the late '90s as the first official partnership title for Studio Ghibli and Walt Disney Studios, we discover that tradition dictates that witches Kiki's age must fly away from home with their broom, their cat, and any belongings they're able to travel with in order to embark on witch's training for a whole year.

Excited that finally the ideal full moon has arrived to serve as Kiki's perfect send-off away from her rural village into the unknown world that waits, Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Dunst) packs up her feline best friend, Jiji the cat (Phil Hartman's last vocal performance) and unknowingly soars straight into a wicked thunderstorm.

Deciding to wait out the rain in a pile of hay filling a train car, it's only a matter of time before our feisty can-do heroine falls asleep, only to wake up in an unknown European destination which echoes Miyazaki's many picturesque influences of actual locations and architectural structures ranging from Scotland and Stockholm to Paris and Tokyo.

In such a cosmopolitan setting and without pretty clothing that other kids she encounters take for granted, it takes her awhile to get acclimated to her new surroundings. Making a wildly memorable first impression aboard her zippy broom that catches the attention of local authorities, Kiki is also startled to discover she's also earned an admirer in the form of an inquisitive boy named Tombo.

Pushing thoughts of cute boys aside to focus on the task at hand in trying to find her own place and purpose in the world, Kiki is fortunate enough to be taken in by a kind, very pregnant woman who's happy to share room, board and breakfast in exchange for a little extra help around the bakery she shares with her husband.

When a simple offer to fly something to another individual sparks an idea to create a delivery service, Kiki becomes more popular than a pizzeria and Netflix combined. And while living on her own was challenging enough, running a small business is even harder as we see her struggle to drum up business, shyly accept any money in lieu of setting strict prices to start, contemplating the expense of a dedicated business phone line and also watch her spending at the grocery store which translates to a whole lot of pancakes around Kiki's place.

Soon realizing that even though she ventured off alone, like Harry Potter, she doesn't have to conquer everything alone, Kiki finds a sister surrogate in Janeane Garofalo's free-spirited artist as well as a mother and grandmother figure.

A positive, girl power kids movie that should play best to grade schoolers, this beautiful 2-disc presentation introduced by John Lasseter and restored closer to the original Japanese version subtly invites young viewers to help Kiki in basic problem solving skills throughout based on our sheer interest in the plot and admiration for the characters.

Easily one of my favorite Miyazaki films, it's also hands down, the title that features my favorite heroine so far in a girl who shows ingenuity, optimism, and a willingness to try thinking outside the box again and again.

Kiki's Delivery Service, which is rumored to be in the running for a live-action version in the future makes a brilliant, feminist, and inventive change of pace for kids movies in the novelty of a title. Namely, the girl doesn't depend on a boy to rescue her, can figure out how to run a business, be independent, and still be a kid all at the same time.

And above all, she realizes that the best rewards in life are things we've worked hard to get instead of those we've been handed, whether it's making a good impression on a customer or making a new friend who becomes our second family.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.