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6 reviews, 53 user ratings

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Howl's Moving Castle
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by Erik Childress

"And I’ll Miss You Most Of All, Turnip Head!"
4 stars

As I was leaving the screening of Howl’s Moving Castle, a colleague turned to me and said, “I really liked the film, although I’m not sure why.” Which was funny since I always found the charm and imagination of every Hayao Mayazaki to be quite apparent. But its probably valid in the context of the animation era we’re experiencing. Miyazaki’s films don’t have the mind-blowing visuals of a Pixar production or the over-clever pop culture references of Shrek and stories of its ilk. In fact, a Miyazaki film couldn’t breathe in a world already populated and established. It exists on its own as a fantasy whose only constraint is that it has to eventually end.

18-year old hatmaker, Sophie, appears to be living out the life of a faux Cinderella. Working in the shop left by her father and a mother getting remarried, Sophie is practically forgotten as she goes about her work quietly. Minding the store one night, the dreaded Witch of the Waste enters and insults her. Before she’s aware of whom she’s dealing with she asks her to leave and is left with a classic curse. Not only is she turned into a 90-year old woman, but the spell prevents her from telling anyone what has happened (a la Jim Carrey not being able to fib in Liar, Liar.)

Sophie seeks out the one person who recently got her out of a scrape (in grandiose, magical fashion) and that’s Howl, a mysterious playboy who roams the outskirts in his moving castle which is part house and part dimension bender. It is fueled by a talking fire demon named Calcifer and inhabited by Howl’s young apprentice, Markl. As Sophie becomes Howl’s maid, the adventure thickens with a quest to reverse the curse (and not just hers) as well as to end a war that’s been waging for reasons even unclear to those who started it.

Miyazaki’s films love to pile on so many strands of adventure and conflict that they could almost be called episodic. That’s precisely what separates them from the lot. Around every corner there’s something you haven’t experienced before, at least certainly not in the way he shows it. Action sequences don’t follow any particular pattern and are never drawn out to the point of being unwelcome. Like The Matrix or Monsters, Inc., behind every door is a new world, a new time, a new encounter. This is a world of wizards, witches, demons (bad AND good) with domains made out of spare parts and have lives of their own like the battleships of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Visually, his films also have a livelihood all to themselves and will delight children even if they’re not always sure of what’s going on. Even adults may be working their brains on catch-up mode and many questions are left up to their own faculties. The frequency with which Sophie’s appearance changes, from old woman to young will baffle some enough to wonder whether they stumbled into Miyazaki’s version of Palindromes. Will love break her spell? Can Howl actually see her the way she really is? Is it all just a metaphor for her growing maturity? The mystery may drive even the most patient to premature frustration.

Thankfully, we can still be involved with the characters without the interference of high-profile voice talent. Dreamworks’ recent failures of Shark Tale and Madagascar recalls Albert Brooks’ classic line from Broadcast News, “let’s not forget, WE’RE the real story, not them.” In Howl’s Moving Castle, we spend less time trying to decipher who the men and women behind the curtain are and bask instead in their fantastical journeys. Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Lauren Bacall and Jean Simmons all do stellar work in the American dubbing. Only Billy Crystal strikes a recognizable tone from his first line, but he doesn’t bully his way into become a scene-stealer. Instead he gives a fire demon more authentic personality than the stale ham delivered by Will Smith, Ben Stiller and Chris Rock.

Maybe the best way to describe a Miyazaki film are in its characters; unbound by the restrictions of a known universe yet not always able to take advantage of their own strengths. Maybe its in the set pieces like the castle struggling to maintain its mobility or the side-splitting trek up a never-ending staircase by two old women at odds with each other. Or maybe it’s the simplicity at the effortlessness of its own expanse. Shooting stars that dance on the water before fading away. Sure, the last few minutes of the film in an attempt to wrap-up more subplots than Revenge of the Sith belongs more to the Shrek school of self-parody. But the imagination has been stirred as well as a desire compelling you to experience it again since your eyes will also be playing catch-up on all the wondrous spectacles that are impossible to grasp in just one viewing.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12248&reviewer=198
originally posted: 06/10/05 13:45:48
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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

3/03/20 Christy Cahill Whimsical, beautiful animation, lovable characters, can't get any better than this! 5 stars
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
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  10-Jun-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 07-Mar-2006



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