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Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki (Dir.)
Review by J. Andrew World
Theatrical  ISBN/ITEM#: B00005JO95
Date: June 10th, 2005 / Show Official Info /

What can I say about Howl's Moving Castle that you won't hear any place else? The animation is beautiful. Wait a second; all the critics will say that. The story is a wonderful adventure. They'll say that too. It's a family film which adults will enjoy as much as kids. Ok I give up. Here comes the standard review that you will read for Howl's Moving Castle.

I first discovered Hayao Miyazaki's work in 1999 with the release of Princess Mononoke. I was quite excited about that film because the English language version was written in part by Neil Gaiman. I was blown away, it was one of the few anime that transcended its genre and made for a good film. Most Americans discovered Miyazaki's work in 2002 with his film Spirited Away, which won Best Animated Feature in the 2002 Academy Awards. It was another stunning feature that stood head and shoulders above most anime films. Although his earlier work, such as Kiki's Delivery Service, is good, it lacked the charm and the magic that Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away shared.

Howl's Moving Castle, based on a book by Diana Wynne Jones, also has the charm and magic of those films and is truly a hybrid of his past films, which is very good for his fans. Also, realizing how successful he had become, Miyazaki was mindful of what he did this time and made sure he made the film accessible to the Western world. The film has a European feel to it.

This film was set in a world that had a feel of a Europe that had embraced the steam engine and had advanced far enough for bizarre steam powered air ships. The clothes of the people look like they are from the early 20th century and there is that sense of wonder the world had when the First World War broke out.

Howl's Moving Castle is about a shy girl named Sophie who makes hats and who meets up with a mysterious young man. He seems to have some power; however he is followed by something dark and strange. He rescues her from soldiers and the world begins to expand before our eyes. It's a world of magic and steam; a world of monstrosities in the sky and in the sea that would rival the vessels of today.

Howl makes it out of town safely and Sophie goes back home. She thinks her life is back to normal when the Witch of the Waste arrives at her shop and puts a curse on her to make her old. That is where her adventure begins. She sets off to find a cure and she makes some interesting friends along the way. The film is filled with mystery, suspense, romance and magic.

Howl's Moving Castle features an all-star cast of A-List and character actors. Christian Bale and Billy Crystal turn in wonderful performances as Howl and Calcifer, the fire demon. As Calcifer, Crystal stole almost every scene. Also, Lauren Bacall put in a truly marvelous performance as the Witch of the Waste. As always with Miyazaki films, the most enjoyable characters are the ones that don?t speak. Turnip Head and the dog are both entertaining as well as endearing.

The film is truly a blend of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away with a dash of Kiki's Delivery Service. It has the intense action of Princess Mononoke, but without the violence, and the innocence of Spirited Away. The world is similar to the one portrayed in Kiki's Delivery Service and some of the characters almost seemed to be borrowed from the film.

Howl's Moving Castle is a family friendly film made for children that adults can equally enjoy. Unlike most films for children, it isn?t dumbed down. The film has a steady pace to it without rushing through scenes and without dragging. Like most anime, the backgrounds are beautiful, which is a stark contrast to the simple figures; Miyazaki's backgrounds are absolutely stunning with lush, almost realistic backgrounds. They suck you into the story and you get carried away into a world full of magic, mystery and romance. The combination of an enchanting story, stellar performances, and beautiful art work made this the best film I have seen this year.

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