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Overall Rating
4.48

Awesome62.5%
Worth A Look: 28.41%
Just Average: 4.55%
Pretty Crappy: 3.41%
Sucks: 1.14%

6 reviews, 52 user ratings


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Howl's Moving Castle
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by Greg Ursic

"Another Miyazaki Masterpiece"
5 stars

Unassuming by nature, 18 year-old Sophie, happy to blend into the background, resists her mother’s repeated calls to pretty up. While walking home after work one day she is accosted by a group of soldiers and subsequently rescued by a dashing young man whom she later learns is Howl, a supposedly vainglorious and malevolent wizard. When Howl takes a liking to Sophie, the Wicked Witch of the Waste, a malicious obese sorceress with designs on him, turns Sophie into a withered crone. Sophie retreats to the abandoned wilderness, eventually seeking refuge as a housekeeper at Howl’s castle, a unique enchanted abode. After she witnesses Howl’s self-sacrificing determination, Sophie resolves to improve her own situation.

While the writers for [b[The Incredibles and Shrek made a concerted effort to include adults in the fun, the bulk of North American animated features are geared towards the elementary set. In its most insidious incarnation, Saturday afternoon’s sugary fare, the genre is more concerned with consumerism than entertainment - the more odious the content, the more things you can buy. Japanese anime stands in stark contrast: while there is a substantial vein of child oriented fare, there is also a thriving niche that caters to adults with stories ranging from intricate original martial arts mythologies to examinations of the intertwining moralities of technology, politics and social dilemmas. Arguably this unique art form would have remained a Japanese curiosity if not for the efforts of Hayao Miyazaki who has emerged as one of the undisputed masters of the genre.

Miyazaki’s films are noted for their gorgeous animation, rich characters and variant appeal, qualities that have won over audiences worldwide. Thematically however, Miyazaki’s work (his most recent ones anyway) varies dramatically from one film to the next, or at least at most recent work does. For example Princess Mononke’s, examination of man’s corruption of the sacred earth spirit, bares little resemblance to Spirited Away’s mystical social commentary on contemporary Japan’s cult of consumerism. Howl’s Moving Castle builds on the theme without a theme.

First, a caution for anyone who insists on a straightforward plot: while the story in Howl’s Moving Castle[/b[] is technically chronologically linear, it bounces around more than a ping pong ball in a dryer. Also, we don’t really get to know a lot about the individual characters – beyond names and very brief histories, they are essentially blank slates. Finally, certain elements i.e. the magic dancing scarecrow, are left completely unexplained – you have to accept that they simply are and move on. These elements can also be viewed as a plus however, in that viewers are not distracted by frivolous back-story and are able to concentrate on the evolution of the characters.

Miyazaki entices viewers into Howl’s fantastical realm almost immediately with a deliberate concoction that balances whimsy and foreboding – viewers are amused, but get that unsettling feeling that something is about to go very wrong. As the story progresses, you can’t help be struck by the clear anachronisms: set in turn of the century, well, we’re not really sure where, Howl’s world is also populated by wondrously varied flying machines. The inhabitants also tend towards the atypical: besides the “normal” people, there are shape shifting wizards, enchanted individuals, fire demons and let’s not forget the house on legs that wanders about the countryside. And looks spectacular.

The transcendent quality of the animation (the bulk of which is drawn by hand) is magnified by the starkly contrasting landscapes: the resplendent bouquet of colors in the meadow looks even more luxuriant when compared to the hellishly apocalyptic netherworld which Howl tries to hold at bay. I also appreciated the subtle touches, like Sophie’s ever-changing appearance, which, if you weren’t paying attention, you’d miss. The visually intense imagery teeters on overwhelming, but never crosses the line. Unlike most animated films on the market these days, CGI effects are used sparingly – mainly when the castle is on the move – and are startlingly fluid without appearing so real as to detract from the fantasy.

While Miyazaki is initially stingy with the details about his characters their laboured evolution is a deliberate effort to draw the viewer in. And it works – whether it’s the lack of pretense or simply the stream of consciousness flow I’m not sure, but I connected better with these characters than I have with most live actors. This may have been helped by the fact that the version that I saw was dubbed by English-speaking actors, including Christian Bale (Howl), Lauren Bacall (The Wicked Witch of the Waste) and Jean Simmons (Old Sophie) you develop a connection with them. I especially enjoyed Billy Crystal’s Calcifer, the castle’s constantly kvetching, and cranky controller – in a performance reminiscent of his role in The Princess Bride, there is not one scene in which his character doesn’t steal the spotlight. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the wonderful metamorphosis – both literal and figurative – of the relationship between Sophie and Howl.

While this film is not for all audiences, those who delight in animation with offbeat stories will be nothing less than enthralled – the friend I took to the screening (a casual moviegoer at the best of times) was flabbergasted and couldn’t stop raving about it. Equal parts allegory, fantasy, romance and mystery, Howls’ Moving Castle defies definition. It is a wonderfully escapist journey that viewers will gladly embark upon again and again.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12248&reviewer=399
originally posted: 06/10/05 01:57:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sydney Film Festival For more in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/18/16 Alexis H Coming of age, discovering love, finding your place in the world 5 stars
11/24/13 Vanessa C. Great movie. 5 stars
11/04/09 Billy no comment messesary 1 stars
10/25/09 Faggot84 Lecturing or singing about short vowels is unlikely to prevent the errors children often ma 5 stars
10/25/09 BadGirl60 Leader-solicited responses from whomever with respect to decisions to be made can become ro 3 stars
10/25/09 Barbara84 The particular characteristics of this ideal observer can vary from an omniscient observer, 5 stars
10/25/09 His_wife98 Rothbard Copyright © 2005 Ludwig von Mises Institute, fifth edition All rights reserved. , 2 stars
10/25/09 No_limits50 Do you still have a two-part edition of the show or is this limited just to summer time? , 3 stars
10/24/09 Kelvin21 American women do not do this, whereas women here seem obligated by law to do so. , <a href 4 stars
10/24/09 Coder18 As a result, modular green roof technologies are rapidly gaining popularity. , <a href="h 2 stars
10/23/09 John19 An analogy might be sought in the working of a large manufacturing plant in a factory. , 5 stars
10/23/09 Alex23 But you are lost in minutiae, barry. , 5 stars
10/22/09 Loy68 If you do have a choice of surgeon or hospital, ask the surgeon the following questions: Wh 5 stars
10/22/09 Red20 Some municipalities may have local laws that are stricter then the state law. , 5 stars
10/22/09 Arnold56 Has anyone ever heard of standards being raised because of their presence or contribution? 5 stars
9/21/09 myexporica.com More on the pancake project: a wide spectrum of humanity, from hillbillies to eggheads, is 5 stars
5/08/09 Stephen Beautiful art great movie! 5 stars
3/02/09 brian World's greatest anime artist strikes again 4 stars
7/03/08 Steve Great movie, but i'm sure the books is better like most book the movie films. 5 stars
1/19/08 eleni looooove it 5 stars
3/27/07 fools&#9835;gold As fun as an ancient Greek story about a hero/god, I rcmmnd watchin both Jap + Eng versions 5 stars
11/01/06 Kiwi I don't normally like anime,but it was really good. Howl is cute! 4 stars
4/11/06 Alex ridiculizando peliculas estadounidenses 5 stars
4/04/06 Annie G Having never read the book, I felt left out while watching this movie ... but, it's ok. 4 stars
3/27/06 Brian Meyer This film is an oasis in the desert known as "modern cinema" 5 stars
3/24/06 Eileen Sheehan Great!! I love anime!1 5 stars
3/14/06 Shannon Robles i think this is the best animated film i have seen in a long time! 5 stars
3/11/06 the laughing man Another Myazaki Masterpiece. 5 stars
3/02/06 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne Overlong, waxing incoherent, sometimes ugly. A merciful average. 3 stars
1/25/06 Sean Hartlieb An anime of non -stop imagination directly from Myazaki's mind. 5 stars
11/02/05 Treavor Hammons I was dragged into this wonderful worl dof magic and imgination as soon as the flim began. 5 stars
10/25/05 Green Gremlin Another great anime from Miyazaki 5 stars
10/18/05 Mee Great movie, but the ending's absolute crap. 3 stars
10/03/05 elendil Plot lacks coherency. And I'm usually a fan of Miyazaki. 2 stars
9/15/05 Jonathon Holmes not as good as "Spirited Away", but entertaning nonetheless 4 stars
8/22/05 Sophia It is now my favorite movie by far. 5 stars
8/16/05 Agent Sands Great Miyazaki fun. Beautiful, funny, and engrossing. 5 stars
8/12/05 Ben Quinn Miyazaki focused a bit too much on the art in this one. I got lost a few times... 4 stars
8/09/05 Grace A little magic is passed to the viewer, as far as I could tell 5 stars
8/08/05 unknown It so totally rocks!!!!!!! Howl is HOT!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/27/05 Lisa Amazing, Breathtaking, and A Joy to Watch 5 stars
7/20/05 Rachyl This movie was increadable! A must see! 5 stars
7/18/05 Kayla I love this movie so much please tell me its coming out really soon 5 stars
7/18/05 Brenda Such a great movie, when is it coming out on DVD!! 5 stars
7/14/05 jcjs lovely, clever, smart, beautiful, engaging, moving 5 stars
7/11/05 Kankasaur And I thought the Rocky Horror castle was clever! 4 stars
7/07/05 Kitty Awsome movie! Wanted to see it again and again 5 stars
6/29/05 YS Pure pleasure for your soul 5 stars
6/27/05 Michael Enchanting, rich, beautiful. Wonderful movie, entertaining and extraordinary. 5 stars
6/21/05 Gini Despite the efforts of my friends, I'm no anime fan. But I'll own this one on DVD. Great! 5 stars
6/20/05 Agent Sands Just a masterpiece. A perfect example of an enjoyable movie. Highly creative, great for all 5 stars
6/17/05 Titus Simply wonderful. The best kind of movie: charming and hauntingly beautiful. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Jun-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 07-Mar-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Sep-2005




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