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The International Writers Magazine
: Review - Animation - From Our Archives

The Cat Returns (2002)
Directed by Hiroyuki Morita
Based on 'Baron the Cat Baron' by Aoi Hiiragi
Screenplay Reiko Yoshida (Japan) Donald Hewitt (US)
Voices of Anne Hathaway as the heroine Haru, Peter Boyle is Fat White Cat Muta, and Cary Elwes as Baron Humbert
A Sam North Review

The Cat Returns was actually made before the astonishing Spirited Away that so deservedly won the Oscar for best animation film back in 2003. It finally gets a well deserved release in London in time for half-term and I really hope that parents take their kids along. They will have a big surprise.

The Cat Returns
is at once entertaining, prettily animated and often very funny. The voices are very western, in fact, in a clever piece of casting Cary Elwes recreates his character from the eternally wonderful The Princess Bride and Anne Hathaway is quite convincing as the accident prone little girl Haru who grows up being able to talk to cats. (After an experience as a child when she saved a young kitten from starvation).

The story is quite complex. Hockey stick wielding girl saves elegant cat (Lune) from being run over and is quite surprised when the well spoken cat turns to thank her for saving his life. She goes to bed that night thinking no more about it, but is woken by cats wailing outside. She is visited by the King of Cats (a hoot as a old blue cat ex-hip shagpile who arrives on a glorious litter with entourage and promises her all the gifts she could ever want for saving his son’s life, Lune, the Prince of Cats, it seems.) Our heroine is quite bemused by this, but kind of accepts it and goes back to bed, hardly even surprised that all the cats walk on their hind legs. She wakes the next morning and figures it was all a strange dream. But no, her best friend calls, thousands of hockey sticks have turned up at school, gift wrapped live mice are stuffed into her locker. It’s real. She really did save the Prince of Cats! She has a parchment from the King that explains all the things they are going to do for her, none of which a young girl could ever want.

The King’s Ambassor is alarmed to discover that she isn’t happy with the mice and offers her a diffferent deal. Marriage to the Prince. 'But I’m a girl', she reminds him. But he isn’t listening. It’s set. That night they are coming for her and she will be married off!

A hidden still small voice comes to her, as if from nowhere, advises her to go the Cat Bureau and save herself. Find the fat white cat at the crossroads …

Well a girl has to do what a girl has to do and she heads for the crossroads… ... and after much exploring of her town following the fattest cat in the world, Peter Boyle having much fun with this greedy cat, she finds herself in a wonderful European square in front of the Cat Bureau and the Baron himself, a petite dapper smoothy with keen skills at blending tea.

Cary Elwes is brilliant at calm determined force as ever. Can't he be the new Bond? One must not forget the crow either, who bickers endlessly with the Muta the fat white cat.

It’s a terrific adventure, filled with wonderfully sardonic, argumentative animals and it’s never cute and or afraid to go down the road of magic realism. It’s consistently inventive and witty.

Finally, in the extraordinary Cat Kingdom (a very Disney-ish creation), the Baron and the fat cat must save her. But the King is wily (placing much food in Muta's way) and with every minute she is turning into a cat! Can they rescue her in time! Will they ever get out of the maze?

I loved this film, more than Miyazaki's Spirited Away in fact, the humour, thanks to Hewitt's script, is more down to earth and the characters, even the bad cat king, all have a chuckle now and then. Actually you can leave kids at home, take your partner, just savour the sensation of a feel good movie for once and float out of the movie theatre with a smile on your face. When did you last do that?

© Sam North June 2005
* The Cat's Away is still available as a DVD 2020

Sam is the author of
Diamonds - The Rush of '72
Buy now from
'a terrific piece of storytelling' -
Historical Novel Society Review
And the Pandemic Thriller -
Another Place to Die: Endime Chronicles
(with Sam Hawksmoor)
Another Place To Die


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