Many Studio Ghibli films are deep and mysterious and full of hidden meaning and… The Cat Returns is not one of those. Based on a subplot from the Ghibli film “Whisper Of The Heart,” it is a ridiculous story purely for fun.
Young Haru (Anne Hathaway) rescues a strange cat from being run over by a truck, only to learn that he is the prince of The Kingdom Of Cats, which she is invited to visit. The King (voiced in the English version by Tim Curry) is taken with her, and as a reward for saving the prince offers her the honor of becoming the prince’s bride. For which she is to be transformed into a cat. Which she is not… happy about.
There is a “Princess Bride” flavor to the swashbuckling hijinks that ensue. Baron Humbert Von Gikkington sets out to rescue her and return her to the human world.
There are a couple details that are inexplicable even in the context of a fantasy-world setting. For one, cats in the kingdom do not always land on their feet, which is a strange visual coming from Japanese animation. Two, Haru is rather clumsy but her agility improves considerably when she if following a cat across rooftops. If the movie took itself seriously these would definitely be worth trying to explain.
It’s joyous and ridiculous and lovely and fun. I wonder if the studio staff wanted something light to decompress after just finishing “Spirited Away.”