This is an adaption of a book by Diana Wynne Jones, which I have also read a little while ago. As such, from what I can recall it's not a perfectly accurate rendition of the book - I think the ending is a bit more twisted toward Japanese sensibilities. Given that I can't recall the ending or the subtle nuances of plot in the book, I don't think I'm really one to comment, though. I finished the book really wondering what had happened and why. The movie was a bit more straight forward, while still retaining the ambiguity that made it so interesting.
I won't attempt to summarise the movie. I think it does live up to its PG rating - I think the older of my four nieces (age 10) would probably cope but Megan, at 6, is going to be scared by some bits. But, in my view, this is why PG means Parental Guidance rather than Pleases Girls or Pretty Gruesome - it means that as long as an adult is there to say "It's OK" or to explain why some things happened the way they did, it's alright. Children only learn to be brave by learning that scary things aren't really that bad, and they only learn to be adult by observing adults in the same situation they've been in. And this is definitely a film (and a book) for kids.
The other thing I like about it is that it's a film with a message. In this age of Shark Tales and Treasure Planet, animations which dumb everything down and exaggerate everything up and spend more time painfully zigzagging toward the wonderful happy ending where everything works out, this is a movie which poses some questions and asks the viewer to think about them. An ongoing war which people seem only to be agitating for, not trying to get out of; the question of whose side people are on; looks being deceiving; the idea that some things are problems only to us while we let them be problems. These are things that the viewer has to work out - things that'll never be in a kid's movie done by a major studio because the hoary hags that sit on their thrones in the big studios think that children only like pabulum; they only want funny, silly stuff with more rapper slang than sensible dialogue. Eugh. Give me Miyazaki any day.
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