Family Movie

Written by Kevin Tavolaro
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"Spirited Away" is an amazing family movie. The sophisticated design, storytelling, and characterization of this animated feature film all work in the service of a movie that can capture the attention of the entire family. The two-disc DVD release of "Spirited Away" provides many extra features that offer an in-depth look at this animation masterpiece.

Directed by Japanese animation icon Hayao Miyazaki, "Spirited Away" is a fascinating and beautifully rendered adventure about Chihiro, a young girl who finds herself mysteriously trapped in a strange world populated by Japanese gods and spirits. After seeing her parents magically transformed into pigs at an abandoned amusement park, Chihiro finds herself transported to an otherworldly realm, where she is widely distrusted as the only human. In order to escape from the realm and restore her parents, Chihiro embarks on a journey of self discovery by taking a job at bath house resort for spirits.

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The movie makes for a unique family film, in that the story contains no conflict between heroes and villains. Apart from a few misunderstandings between characters, there are really no "bad guys" in the film. Instead, the conflict is derived from Chihiro's inner struggle, as she develops from a self-centered brat, into a self-reliant, responsible young lady. This journey is brought to live by Miyazaki's amazing animation and design, which is distinct from anything seen in American animated features.

"Spirited Away" is Japan's highest grossing film of all time, and enjoyed a nearly year-long theatrical run in that country. The American DVD edition is produced by Pixar Films (of "The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo" fame). Pixar redubbed the original Japanese dialog into English for American audiences, with voice talent that includes Suzan Pleshette, John Ratzenberger, and Daveigh Chase (of "The Ring" and "Donnie Darko"), who provides the voice of Chihiro.

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