Howl's Moving Castle


Reviewed by: Kotleta

Howl's Moving Castle
"Hayao Miyazaki has made some wonderful films... but this one has succeeded only in sucking all the charm, humour and depth out of the original story."

Everyone has a favourite book as a child, the book that they can read over and over again year after year, yet never tire of. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, on which this film was based, was mine. So perhaps this will excuse my bitter disappointment and inability to avoid comparing the film to the book.

Hayao Miyazaki has made some wonderful films. His talents as an animator, director and screenwriter are indisputable. But this one has succeeded only in sucking all the charm, humour and depth out of the original story. Nothing remains, but a rather empty Mills & Boon style romance, some beautiful hand drawn animation and the radical message that war is bad and turns men into monsters.

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My distress knows no bounds.

The story goes that downtrodden Sophie works in a hat shop and one day meets the glamorous wizard Howl, a charming ladykiller who has garnered the reputation of eating girls' hearts, despite looking more like a ladyboy. War has broken out across the land, since Prince Justin went missing, and then the wicked Witch of the Waste curses Sophie and makes her the age she acts (about 90), so Sophie takes refuge as Howl's new cleaning lady. Old Sophie makes a deal with Howl's fire demon Calcifer, also under a spell, that they will each help the other to break free.

On the upside, there is no singing.

I know it's blasphemous to say so, but this film reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons. The dialogue is mostly trite, with surprising flashes of humour, but not enough to rescue a painfully rushed and embarrassingly silly ending. It's an imaginative and imagery-rich rendering, which justifies the "must-see" addendum, for anime-fans at least, but it's all fairly pointless and half an hour too long.

Tempting though it is, it would be a lie to describe Howl's Moving Castle as magical. Luckily, it would not be a lie to describe it as instantly forgettable.

Reviewed on: 24 Sep 2005
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Howl's Moving Castle packshot
A magical tale in a troubled kingdom on the brink of war.
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Read more Howl's Moving Castle reviews:

Anton Bitel *****
Scott Macdonald ***

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki, based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones

Starring: (voices for English version) Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, Emily Mortimer, Josh Hutcherson, Billy Crystal; (voices for Japanese version) Chieko Baisho, Takuya Kimura, Akihiro Miwa, Tatsuya Gashuin, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Daijiro H

Year: 2004

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: Japan


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