Howl's Moving Castle

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The ViewDunedin Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/09/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 119mins

Howl’s Moving Castle is a beautifully animated, visually inventive film with some truly magical moments, though it does run out of steam towards the end.

The Background
Director Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away was a surprise box office hit in 2003, when it delighted audiences worldwide before going on to clinch the Best Animated Film Oscar. Now Miyazaki is back with Howl’s Moving Castle, based on the fantasy children’s novel by British writer Diana Wynne Jones, a mouth-watering combination for anyone who is a fan of either artist.

The Story
Howl’s Moving Castle is set in a type of parallel-universe Victorian England, where rival factions are waging a brutal war. Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer) is a young hat-maker, who feels plain compared to her glamorous older sister. However, her life takes an exciting turn when she meets petulant rock star-like wizard, Howl (Christian Bale) and then gets turned into a 90 year old crone (now voiced by Jean Simmons) by the Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall).

In order to remove the curse, Sophie goes in search of Howl’s moving castle and makes some new friends along the way, including cheeky fire-demon Calcifer (Billy Crystal).

The Good
The hand-drawn animation is breathtakingly gorgeous and there’s a huge amount of detail that will reward repeated viewings. The film makers have assembled an impressive vocal cast for the dubbed version, of which Jean Simmons is easily the stand-out. She does such a terrific job of voicing Sophie that you quite forget about her quest to become young again. Bale is good too, his deep, confident voice suggesting that Howl is more powerful than he’s letting on, but the biggest surprise is Billy Crystal who actually underplays the comedy schtick and concentrates on creating perhaps the film’s most intriguing character.

The Bad
The main problem with Howl’s Moving Castle is that it’s occasionally hard to follow. There are several diversions that only serve to make things more confusing. As a result, the film is a little bit too long and it definitely runs out of steam before the end. To make matters worse, the climax is both perfunctory and unsatisfying.

The Conclusion
Never less than stunning to look at, Howl's Moving Castle also has engagingly likeable characters. Expect to see Howl's Moving Castle battling it out with Tim Burton's Corpse Bride and Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit for Best Animated Film, come Oscar time. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Howl's Moving Castle
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Content updated: 24/05/2019 03:34

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