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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

‘My Neighbor Totoro’ to screen on Sunday

Of all the Studio Ghibli films that have been produced over the years, some stand out. My favorite would have to be "Spirited Away," Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 Oscar-winning film about a young girl saving her parents.

Close behind, though, would be "My Neighbor Totoro," Miyazaki's 1988 film that is as gentle and kid-friendly as anything I have ever seen. The Internet Movie Database sums up the film's simple plot this way: "When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wondrous forest spirits who live nearby."

Written and directed by Miyazaki, "My Neighbor Totoro" was only his fourth feature film. His first was 1979's "The Castle of Cagliostro," followed by a short film and two television series. And it fit right in with his obsession for the aspects of life that lie beyond our normal senses, exploring that realm with a tone that speaks both to adults and children.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the film is part of the Studio Ghibli Fest 2019. "My Neighbor Totoro" will screen locally three times, beginning at 12:55 p.m. Sunday at three area theaters: AMC River Park Square, and Regal Cinemas location at Northtown Mall and Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone Stadium. Following screenings will be held at 7 p.m. at all three sites on Monday and Wednesday.

Sunday and Wednesday's screenings will be dubbed into English. Monday's screening will be in Japanese with English subtitles.

Critic Trevor Johnstone, writing in 2007 for Time Out, offered what may be the film's best description: "The lack of sentimentality will be utterly refreshing to those raised on a diet of Disney." But let's leave the last word to the late Roger Ebert: "Here is a children's film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy."