Yes, even Ghibli can disappoint.
JTurner - wrote on 05/31/09
There are many Anime fans who believe that Studio Ghibli can do no wrong, but THE CAT RETURNS unfortunately shows that even a high-profile animation company who gave us titles such as PRINCESS MONONOKE, CASTLE IN THE SKY, SPIRITED AWAY, and NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND can produce a lesser effort. While far from foul, this movie is too annoyingly shallow and simplistic for its own good, with an overdose of saccharine "sweetness" and a plot which not only lacks substance, but unfolds in a predictable, watered-down sort of way that feels more reminiscent of a second rate Disney direct-to-video sequel. A semi-sequel to the enchanting WHISPER OF THE HEART, this film, which involves an unfortunate high school girl transformed into a cat after saving a feline's life, aims to be a breezy childrens film. However, similarly young-themed features from Ghibli, notably TOTORO and KIKI also had a depth and memorable aura that THE CAT RETURNS sadly lacks. There are some charming moments and some lush animation, but overall, it's a pretty forgettable feature; young kids might enjoy it, but all in all it's a disappointing entry for Ghibli. Ironically, while Disney's dub track is typically well done (highlighted by Cary Elwes as the Baron, although Anne Hathaway overacts too much as Haru, and Tim Curry's otherwise solid Cat King is hampered by an odd overemphasis on trying to make him "hip"), it also has the unintentional effect of emphasizing how lackluster the whole film is. (The DVD also has dubtitles only, so if you're one of those people who prefers to watch Ghibli in Japanese, you may have a hard time doing so with no literal subtitle track.) For fans of Disney/Ghibli collaborations, THE CAT RETURNS is the last film they should consider checking out.