The Cat Returns 2002 | Movie Watchlist

Reviewed by Robert Pardi

Although the billing reads only "Conceived by Hayao Miyazaki," one can sense the guiding spirit of

the Japanese animation genius in every frame; his protégée, Hiroyuki Morita, does spectacular work. After teenaged Haru (voice of Anne Hathaway) rescues a kitty-cat from traffic, she has good cause to ponder the expression, "No good deed goes unpunished!" On her street that night, a procession of cats promenades past her house. In person, the Cat King (Tim Curry) pays tribute to Haru's courage in saving one of his son's nine lives. The next morning, Haru's mom (Kristine Sutherland) reminds her that she used to converse with kittens during her early childhood. Subsequently, the Cat King and his ambassador hit upon a brainstorm; Haru shall marry Prince Lune (Andrew Bevis)! Accustomed to daydreaming about adolescent lads, the shy, gawky Haru takes her inter-species marital concerns to the Cat Bureau. Bending the ears of the Cat Baron (Cary Elwes) and his sarcastic aide, Muta (Peter Boyle), Haru asks them to intercede with the Cat King. Taking on her case, the Baron suggests that Haru's quandary stems from her lack of self-confidence. While the Baron sets off on his diplomatic mission, the King's sneaky feline troops whisk Haru away to the Cat Kingdom. At the palace, a pink pussycat named Yuki (Judy Greer), who had met Haru when the girl was a tyke, warns her to assert herself. Sure enough, the perplexed Haru starts turning into a demi-cat! Unafraid of interference from the Baron or Muta, the King has anticipated Haru's cold paws about her nuptials, and the wily monarch offers her an escape route through a maze, which he has rigged with movable walls. Only Prince Lune can mediate his father's whimsical decision. Will Haru ever return to a full-fledged human form? Director Morita does an exemplary job of bringing a Japanese graphic novel to the screen. In this direct-to-video Disney repackaging, the English-language adaptors retain the flavor of the original, and the voice actors attune themselves to their fantastic roles.