***/**** Image A Sound A Extras B
screenplay by Reiko Yoshida
directed by Hiroyuki Morita
by Walter Chaw With the frantic, infernal energy (and cats) and even a little of the barbed social satire of Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, Hayao Miyazaki protégé Hiroyuki Morita's directorial debut The Cat Returns is undone a little by its hysteria but salvaged by its artistry and smarts. A familiar tale for fans of Studio Ghibli, the film follows plucky schoolgirl Haru (Chizuru Ikewaki in the Japanese track, Anne Hathaway in the English dub) as she saves a mysterious grey cat from certain flattening, thus earning her the dubious boon of eternal gratitude from the Cat King (Tetsuro Tamba & Tim Curry). After being cursed with a yard-full of cattails, a pocketful of catnip, and a locker-full of gift-wrapped mice, Haru receives the ultimate prize of betrothal to the Cat Prince (Takayuki Yamada & Andrew Bevis)--a fate she seeks to avoid with the help of portly kitty Muta (Tetsu Watanabe & Peter Boyle) and the stately Baron (Yoshihiko Hakamada & Cary Elwes). Haru's journey is essentially one of perspective as she evolves from a silly sort of girl into a person who's learned to trust that her instincts are good and that her courage is, indeed, up to snuff.