A quiet and shy schoolgirl named Haru (Anne Hathaway) is having a bad day. She overslept and has to skip breakfast; she loses her shoe on the way to school. She is caught by her teacher sneaking into class, which makes all her classmates laugh at her, including the boy she likes who otherwise barely knows she’s alive. While walking home with her friend Hiromi (Kristen Bell), she saves a cat from getting run over by a truck and is nearly killed herself. Much to her surprise, the cat stands on two legs, thanks her, and mentions he’ll be back later with proper gratitude. Later that night, The Cat King (Tim Curry) shows up at her door step with a large processional with a proper thanks and a list of gifts she will receive the next day. These gifts include bags of mice, catnip, and a yard full of cattail. Later, she is told she will be taken to the Kingdom of Cats and married to Prince Lune (Andrew Bevis).
Exasperated, she follows a voice that tells her to find a fat white cat named Muta (Peter Boyle), who will take her to the Baron (Cary Elwest), who, along with the raven Toto (Elliott Gould), will help her get out of her cat jam. Before they can do much, a stampede of cats take her to the Cat Kingdom where she is dressed in fancy clothes, given all she desires to eat, and anything else she desires (with the exception of her freedom). As she is whisked away upon these fancies, she begins turning into a cat. The Baron, Toto, and Muta comes to her rescue and quite an adventure is had.
The Cat Returns (the Baron had a small role in Whisper of the Heart, hence his return in the title) is second-tier Ghibli. The animation isn’t nearly as robust or interesting as it is in their best films and the story is slight. It is, however, a delight to watch. It is fun and funny and silly as can be. I kept turning my head to watch my daughter’s face as she watched the film and it was always full of amazement.
The English voice acting is wonderful. When I mentioned to my wife that Cary Elwes was playing The Baron, she replied, “of course he is” because who else would you get to play a cat baron? Elliott Gould and Peter Boyle are hilarious as the Baron’s companions and Anne Hathaway is as good as ever as Haru.
As usual with these events, there was trivia about the film playing before it started . The animated short film "Don't Go," about a cat chasing a cute little alien screened at my showing as well.
Fathom Events is showing The Cat Returns on the big screen for two more days. You can catch the original language version with subtitles today (Apr 23) and the dubbed version again Wednesday (Apr 25). Check the Fathom Events website for details. The Studio Ghibli Fest continues throughout the year so you can look forward to so much more in the months to come.