Photo: Studio Ghibli
starring: (English voice cast) Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Darren Criss, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges, James Marsden, Oliver Platt
Release Date: November 20th, 2013 (US)
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Rated PG for thematic elements, some violence, partial nudity
This visually astounding, lushly animated film from Studio Ghibli tells the story of an elderly childless bamboo cutter (Caan) who discovers a tiny princess in a bamboo stalk. Convinced that the child is a blessing from heaven, he rushes home, and he and his wife (Steenburgen) decide to raise her as their own. She grows at a rapid rate (much faster than normal) and soon befriends the neighbor children, in particular Sutemaru (Criss) , an older boy whom she thinks of as a big brother. Though she is quite content with her country life, her father has bigger plans for her: Upon discovering a heap of gold in another bamboo stalk, he decides to build a splendid mansion in the capital, where his daughter will live and train to be one of the nobility.
However, Kaguya (Moretz) does not take to princess training very well. Though beautiful and intelligent, she is very willful and is a constant thorn in the side of her mentor, Lady Sagami (Liu). Before long marriage proposals from the five most powerful men in the country begin rolling in. Princess Kaguya refuses to marry them unless they can perform impossible tasks. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it will leave you speechless.
I recommend the original Japanese version to the English dub. While Chloe Grace Moretz is a fine actress, her voice does not suit Kaguya. Also, this film will be enjoyed by those who already like anime or Studio Ghibli’s work; those unfamiliar with Japanese culture may be confused by some of the themes. After all, it is based on a Japanese folk tale called “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” There is also a brief scene where a bare breast and nipple is shown (breastfeeding); while not seen as offensive in Japan, some parents may find this offensive. Young children may also lose interest since the film has a long runtime and there are stretches of the film where little happens. Use your best judgment when deciding if this is a good family film.
VERDICT: Worth a watch for the animation alone