Orphan girl Sheeta (Paquin) holds a key to the mysterious sky kingdom of Laputa: a crystal pendant that protects her from grave harm. Teaming up with young miner Pazu (Van Der Beek), Sheeta sets out to find the mystical land. But she must outwit both the military and a rowdy gang of fraternal air pirates led by grotesque matriarch Dola (Leachman), who want to get their hands on the secret treasures housed at an abandoned castle in Laputa.
The great animation master Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”) made his name in the States with this high-flying adventure film gamely voiced by Paquin, Van Der Beek, Leachman, and “Star Wars” vet Mark Hamill (as the greedy Muska). The film's visual thrills come from the way Miyazaki combines old-fashioned swashbuckling scenarios with futuristic gadgetry and elements of fantasy. And as always, his cast of characters are not merely good and evil, but morally complex creatures. A whimsical delight for adventurers of any age.