If you're a fan of all things furry, fluffy and feline then you'll no doubt find yourself purring over this release from Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli. Featuring a swarm of felines with more attitude than a cheetah with an Uzi, The Cat Returns is a glorious celebration of slinky, mouse-baiting mogs everywhere.
Studio Ghibli has already proved itself a formidable force in animated storytelling, retaining the soon-to-be-lost art of carefully crafted, hand-drawn cels and eschewing the use of CGI unless absolutely necessary. This admirably old-fashioned approach to filmmaking has already garnered the studio an Oscar for acclaimed fairytale Spirited Away and The Cat Returns builds upon this success by taking up the same basic premise: dissatisfied young girl is whisked into a fantasy world full of extraordinary citizens. The end result is nowhere near as sumptuous, polished or detailed as its predecessor, but it's still original enough to delight the young 'uns.
Sadly, The Cat Returns is aimed so squarely at the sprogs that some of its adult crossover appeal has been lost. And there's another niggle, too: if you find a cinema screening the subtitled version (as opposed to the inevitably Americanised dubbed one), there are some howling typos.
But don't let this put you off. For while Cat might not hail directly from Spirited helmer Hayao Miyazaki (he conceptualised the story - - loosely linked to 1995 Ghibli film Whisper Of The Heart - - then handed it over to first-time director Hiroyuki Morita), it still glitters with that sprinkling of magic Ghibli-dust. It's energetic, engaging and amusing. And how can you fail to love a movie that has cats stuffing a little girl's school locker full of wriggling mice as a gift?
Bubbling with fun, this is a cheerful - if rather silly - - kiddie adventure that should put a smile on the lips of the most miserable sourpuss.