Howl's Moving Castle
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones (novel)
Starring: Jean Simmons (voice - English version), Christian Bale (voice - English version)
When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking home.
My sister received this for Christmas, and right after she ripped open the package, screamed "LET'S GO WATCH IT! NOW! IT'S LIKE MY MOST FAVORITE MOVIE EVER!" Okay, maybe not those exact words, but she liked the movie. And she had no problem with watching it twice in the same week (after I wanted to see it the second time with her).
This is the third of Miyazaki-san's films that I've watched, the first two being Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service. Honestly, I can't even describe his films in words. I'm sure there are more eloquent reviewers than me, but I've never been good with word choice (sorry, diction). All I can say is, his movies are magical.
Howl's character has many layers. I swear he only appears like three times in the film (okay, maybe a few more), and we see him as a self-absorbed, selfish, scared wizard who really cares for nobody except himself. Time passes by, and we see him suddenly turn into a good-natured, more loving human. (This is said with some sarcasm. My true rating for this film was a 4.75: the plot was kind of confusing at times, with several holes and parts that weren't explained well. Watch it a few times, and you'll understand more each time.)
Sophie is the heroine, another of Miyazaki's strong-woman protagonists. She's been cursed to become a 90-year old woman, but we see a young girl's heart within her and she represents the goodness and brings it out of everybody. Calcifer is a very powerful fire demon that's been somewhat subdued by Howl. He's a quirky character and provides a lot of humor with his sarcastic dialogue. My personal favorite was Turnip-Head the scarecrow, who could not speak. I just found his bouncing around and obedience (the significance of that will be revealed when you reach the end) really cute. Speaking of cuteness, young Markl was also an adorable character, voiced by none other than Josh Hutcherson (yes, bread boy of The Hunger Games).
The voice work for this film was really good. The challenge of matching English words with the original Japanese images! Glad that wasn't my job. Also, I find it really amazing that they used the same actress for old and young Sophie in the original version (talk about skill!), rather than the use of two actresses (Simmons and Emily Mortimer) for the English version. Next time I will watch that with English subtitles.
With just the right parts of humor, romance, and scary, this film is another animated wonder (That scenery- breathtaking!) from Miyazaki that I would definitely recommend for everybody. If you have not seen any of his films before, you are seriously missing out. As in, you should throw away whatever you're doing and go watch Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro or Castle in the Sky now. (I haven't even seen the latter two. Shame on me, I know.)
I was not allowed to embed the trailer, but it's on Youtube here.
Synopses, images, and quotes are taken from the Internet Movie Database. (imdb.com)