Spirited Away | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Spirited Away

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Enchanting and impressively crafted, this animation feature by Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke) fulfills the twin criteria of a classic fantasy: it transports us to an alternate world with a beguiling logic all its own, and in doing so it teaches us to understand ourselves better. Chihiro, a bratty ten-year-old, is moving to a new home with her yuppie parents, and when they stop at a country inn for food, the girl is whisked away to a bathhouse (modeled after Japanese and Mediterranean castles) where spirits of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments come for rest and recreation. What follows is a series of surreal adventures involving a spidery furnace stoker, the greedy proprietress of the bathhouse, her spoiled giant of a baby, a No-masked ghost, and a kind young man who can morph into a dragon. Each twist and turn fortifies Chihiro's resourcefulness and resolve, and the hand-drawn animation from Miyazaki's studio is a feast for the eye, assimilating everyone from Monet to Kitagawa Utamaro to Henry Darger. Local theaters are showing both the Japanese version with subtitles and the English-language version, dubbed by John Lasseter (Toy Story) and featuring the voices of Suzanne Pleshette and Daveigh Chase. 125 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6 (both versions), Landmark's Century Centre (dubbed), McClurg Court (both).

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