With their mother in the hospital, sisters Mei (Dakota Fanning) and Satsuki (Elle Fanning) move with their father to a new home in the country, only to find a world of furry and magical creatures living right in their own camphor tree.
This beautifully animated Japanese film, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Howl's Moving Castle,Spirited Away,Princess Mononoke) brilliantly captures the joys and fears of childhood, offering a wide-eyed look at a world of fantasy and the wonders of nature. A family film in every sense of the word, this is one of those rare stories you may want to watch over and over with your children.
This movie is intended for older children.
Although they'll be fascinated by the larger-than-life Totoro, preschoolers probably won't be able to understand everything that's going on. They may find it disturbing when the girls cry over their sick mother and when Mei runs away to try to get to a hospital far away in order to see her. The overall tone of the movie, though, is gentle enough to appeal to older preschoolers, who may feel like they're watching one of their favorite picture books come to life.
They'll share the sisters' wide range of emotions and will relate to their exuberance and the joy they take in simple actions like fetching water from a pump and following a trail of acorns. In a genre dominated by male superheroes, Satsuki and Mei are strong female characters whose curiosity, compassion, and enthusiasm should touch viewers of both genders.
Some tweens may think the movie is too babyish for them, while others will fondly reminisce about the days they looked at the world with the same innocence and wonder of the two sisters. Many kids in this age group will appreciate the painstaking process of hand-drawing the entire film and will be as enchanted by the look of the animation as they will be by the story itself.