1 Star: A pile of crap that’s best forgotten.
2 Stars: It’s ok. Some good and some bad, but not enough good to make it good.
3 Stars: A good movie that you can enjoy, but it’s not great.
4 Stars: A classic that will stand the test of time.
Movies stick with us for different reasons. Some make us cry and we feel the intense drama. Some make us laugh so hard until it hurts. Some movies can do both of them and one of those is My Neighbor Totoro. A legendary film from the great Hiro Miyazaki. When I do my list of top one hundred favorite movies of all-time, this one will be way up there.
Meet Satsuki, she is a rambunctious child who lives with her father while her mother recuperates in the hospital. Mei is her younger sister who is such a sweetheart. She has so much energy and cuteness that shines through. They live near a kind lady who they name granny. The voice acting is impeccable. No one over does it and every line is delivered with perfect pitch and timing. The characters are like the ones you usually see in a Miyazaki movie, the understanding dad, the wonderful mom, and the relatable and cute kids. Does this take away from the characters? Nope, they are so real and likable, you don’t even notice. They are normal people who we can relate to, and see the world through Satsuki and Mei’s eyes is quite an experience. Totoro and his companions are great. They have personality and great design. You will never forget the cat bus. Yes, you heard me, a kitty cat bus! It’s sooo cute you’ll wish there really was a kitty cat bus! Oh the horror! Make it real!
The story is simple and it works. A father and his two kids move out to a small home, so they can visit their mom (his wife), more often. Mei goes into the woods and she finds a creature named Totoro. She tries to convince her sister and father that she found him, but he doesn’t appear. Is this all in Mei’s head? The story does deepen when mom gets sick. Satsuki and Mei try to find a way to see her see if she is ok. This is so relatable to any child. Who wouldn’t want to rush to the hospital to see their mom if she was supposed to go home, but gets sick? Mei and Satsuki also try to find out what is Totoro’s deal. Is he a friend? Watch and see.
As usual, Miyazaki does his typical perfect job directing the animation with vibrant colors, wonderful character design, and a smart screenplay. I love how Miyazaki makes his characters look like regular people, instead of the typical anime tropes. It makes their situations more relatable. There are quiet moments in this movie that are spectacular. Miyazaki respects the audience’s intelligence. He knows we can handle quiet moments and lets us fill in the blanks on what’s going on. Audiences don’t need zooming cameras and in your face loudness in order to compel us. Give us a good story and characters we can relate to, and we can have the patience to watch any movie.
The screenplay maybe my favorite part of this movie. When Mei tells her dad and Satsuki that she saw Totoro, we could’ve gotten the same, “Sure you did, you are nuts.” tropes we’ve seen a thousand times. Instead, we get a caring father and sister who really want this to be real for Mei. That is such a breath of fresh air to see in a family movie. The story has enough depth, but doesn’t bog down the story with too much plot. Instead, the screenplay focuses on the journey for Satsuki and Mei. This is perfect! It keeps it simple and relatable without drowning out the spirit of what makes this movie so good. It is pure magic. Simple, sweet and gentle. My favorite part of this masterful screenplay is the lack of cynicism. This is an honest and sincere screenplay without a hint of cynicsm in it. This is so refreshing and I wish more screenplays would take this approach. This is one of the best screenplays for any movie, I’ve ever seen. Miyazaki wrote this masterwork of a screenplay and should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for it.
I can’t really name any to be honest. Maybe the running time, which is eighty-seven minutes long. I would have loved if this movie had been four hours long! Maybe, that’s the sign of a great movie. It leaves you wanting more! This is a near perfect movie that delights with sights, sounds, heartfelt moments and hearty laughs.
My Neighbor Totoro has become a huge cult hit and it is easy to see why. The gorgeous visuals, adorable characters, charming story and sweet tone will make this a family favorite for decades to come. Ninety-nine percent of big Hollywood animated movies pale in comparison to this movie. If you are looking for adorable, and wholesome family entertainment that is also a great movie. Look no further than My Neighbor Totoro, one of the best movies, (not just animated, but movies period), ever made.
My Score: 4 stars. One of the best animated, no, movies PERIOD, of all time. A charming classic that you will love and watch many times without the magic wearing off.