- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
It is also the most highly acclaimed movie of the year (check out the dozens of rave reviews stacking up at Rotten Tomatoes).
Drawing on a vast array of fairy tales and Disney films, legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki has woven a tapestry full of myth, comedy, drama, and wild imagination. The story resembles a fusion of
Some Christian viewers may be disturbed by references to Shinto beliefs and "nature spirits" that pop up throughout the film. These tales are clearly coming from a tradition other than Christianity. No doubt they spring from Miyazaki's familiarity with Japanese culture, myths, and beliefs. But the film does not exist to preach a false religion. The trappings of another culture and another belief system here, ultimately, serve to glorify virtues that are resonant with the way Christ told us to live. Before the film is over (it is an exhaustingly busy 125 minutes), we have been given parables about greed and the power of sacrificial love.
Discerning grownup viewers should find much to debate, discuss, and enjoy. Older children may enjoy it too, although parents should discuss the film with them.
That's my take on the film. My full review is at Looking Closer.
Other Christian media critics posted varying praises and complaints. Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) admits, "I'm not a big fan of Japanese animation. I'm also not very appreciative of films whose messages contradict the Bible from which I derive my beliefs. The fact that despite this, I've given the film two and one half stars speaks volumes as to its artistic level."
Debbie Mils (Catholic News) sees more value in the film: "[It] shows how the adult world is confusing and harsh to children and how they learn … to get past what they perceive to be scary obstacles in order to get what they want and need. It also shows how it can be a child's nature to trust and their need to follow their own instincts. [The film] ultimately has a fairy-tale happy ending as Chihiro makes it through her own personal journey, finding love and friendship."
Ted Snyder (Movieguide) offers an indirect rebuke of any Christians who like the film. "Bible-believing Christians and Jews will find
(However, it is not Chihiro who learns lessons from the symbolic spirits. Instead, they are humbled by her refusal to be ensnared by her own appetites. They are amazed by her selfless love for her friend.)
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) says, "
Mainstream critics like Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) and Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) offered higher praise than for any film yet released this year, animated or otherwise. Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) raves, "It is the best animated film of recent years. This is a wonderful film. Myazaki's works have a depth and complexity often missing in American animation."
One of the year's most extraordinary films,