Blu-ray Review: The Cat Returns | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Cat Returns

Studio: GKIDS

Jan 17, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Haru is a bashful teenager who risks her life to rescue a cat from being run over in traffic. This good deed turns out to be a huge mistake: the feline she saved is the prince of the Cat Kingdom, and its king is determined to kidnap Haru and make her marry his (cat) son. The only ones willing to help her are the debonair, swashbuckling Baron (a well-dressed, talking cat), Muta (an oversized talking cat), and Toto (a raven, also able to talk.) When she’s whisked away, unwillingly, to the Cat Kingdom, it’s up those three to mount a rescue mission of their own.

The Cat Returns’ origins are about as weird as you’ll find for any Studio Ghibli film. It started as an animated short commissioned for a Japanese theme park ride; when that project fell through, Hayao Miyazaki tasked his animators with expanding it. (The job was ultimately won by Hiroyuki Morita, who had been key animator on My Neighbors the Yamadas.) It’s also somewhat of an indirect sequel to Whisper of the Heart, as it stars The Baron – who featured in the brief snippets of the fantasy novel written by that movie’s lead character – as well as the mischevious Muta.

As a whole, The Cat Returns is an up-and-down viewing experience. Haru’s increasing frustration with the cats’ clueless attempts to shower her with gifts – a locker full of mice, a pocketful of catnip – is fun, as is a passage where the Cat King summons entertainers to bring a smile to Haru’s sullen face. For a lot of it, though, the pacing feels slow, and that’s a real issue in a 75-minute movie. (The runtime feels especially short, coming from Ghibli – it feels like they did the bare minimum to expand a short for as long as they could.) The animation, too, is less fluid than the usual Ghibli joint, more like something you used to see on Saturday morning American TV sets than the art they typically spoil us with. When it comes to grand fantasy tales of little girls lost in wonderfully strange worlds, The Cat Returns is no Spirited Away. Still, it’s a serviceable children’s adventure film, with some memorable moments.

GKIDS’ colorful Blu-ray has numerous extra features, including a trailer reel, feature-length storyboards, and a Making Of featurette. It also offers options for the original Japanese audio or the English dub, which has a delightfully bonkers voice cast (Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, Elliott Gould, Kristen Bell, Andy Richter, and Judy Greer.)


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Ana Pacia
October 8th 2018

Parents need to know that this imaginative offshoot of Whispers of the Heart has violent scenes of cartoon cats engaged in battles with swords, spears, and chains. But the overarching story of Haru learning about low stress handling and how “nobody decides who I am but me” is an inspiring story for mature tweens and up.

Jenny Gagnon
July 20th 2019

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