Howl's Moving Castle

Bomb Rating: 

All hail the great Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki!

Mr. Cranky don't play that.

Just because some guy manages to put fantastical, nonsensical images up on the screen doesn't mean we should all prostrate ourselves and just accept that whatever he does is the greatest thing in animation history. "Howl's Moving Castle" feels like Miyazaki's "Doogal" to me. It's more of the same from him. To make matters worse, it's really hard to tell if the translation from the original Japanese is accurate or dumbed down to make sure American audiences don't misunderstand anything. In most of Miyazaki's films, the characters -- at least the translated dialogue they speak -- talk like screenwriters trying to make sure young children get what's going on.

The main character is Sophie (voice by Emily Mortimer) and she makes hats. One days she's saved from attacking soldiers by Howl (voice by Christian Bale), who seems to take a liking to her. Wanting Howl for herself, the Witch of the Waste (voice by Lauren Bacall) casts a spell on Sophie and turns her into an old woman. Even though it doesn't make much sense, Sophie believes she can't stay in her home and leaves. She meets a Scarecrow and ends up on Howl's moving castle, which looking like a bunch of buildings mashed together. It walks and has a number of magical properties. There's a little dial near the door and whenever it changes color, the door leads to a different location. Inside the castle is a fire (voiced by Billy Crystal) who is pretty much a plot device to explain the whole story and clarify what Sophie can and can't do.

I won't try to explain too much more of the plot except to say there's a war going on that Howl is right in the middle of. Characters seem less motivated by organic reasons than explanations from other characters that push them along in the story. It seems to me that a teenage girl turned into an old woman would be full of panic most of the time, but Sophie takes to her new role quite well, appearing to be completely unfazed by her entire predicament.

Sadly, unfazed describes my reaction to this movie quite well.

The DVD is a 2-disc set that includes both the original Japanese soundtrack along with the English version. There's a behind-the-scenes featurette on the voice talent for the English language version and an interview with some guy from Pixar and another featurette about Miyazaki visiting Pixar.

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Rate This Movie:

Average: 4.3 (6 votes)

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Dude, are you kidding me?

T.'s picture

Dude, are you kidding me? You can't get too practical with art. I can watch this movie over and over. It is delightfully imaginative.

I am thoroughly enjoying your reviews (Wow! You watch a lot of movies!) You're clever and funny. I like. :)

He doesn't like any movies, satirically speaking...

TMoonunit's picture

...although I can't really think of much of a vein he could get into on this one. To many inexplicable things going on, too little of Miz's work exists in our common culture to really find an angle people can relate to satire-wise.

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