Monday, November 25, 2013

Film Review: Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Howl's Moving Castle (Review)
Japan/2004
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a fascinating fantasy film."

While walking to visit her sister, Sophie, a young hatter, encounters a powerful and renowned young wizard named Howl, who brings her into a sticky situation. Shortly afterward, the Witch of the Waste, who is in love with Howl, visits places a spell on Sophie that transforms her into a 90-year-old woman...

Howl's Moving Castle continues by following Sophie as she pursues Howl and attempts to break her spell. Proven to be more difficult than initial thought, Sophie begins to find some relief in her new age as she has little to lose the older she gets. Meanwhile, a foolish war is being waged, literally and figuratively, both of which concern Howl. This adventurous tale flows well into a more action-oriented yet meaningful and equally enchanting final act. The ending of Howl's Moving Castle can best be described as sweet, or Happily Ever After.

Howl's Moving Castle is a fascinating fantasy film. The characters are very creative and easily likeable; okay, you may initially hate the Witch of the Waste with her smug face and quadruple chins, but she gets what's coming, and it's a surprisingly pleasant character change. The characters' interactions are also humorous. The overall tone of the story is very lighthearted and even inspiring. In fact, some of themes the film tackles are self-esteem, love, and war. Fortunately, other than the war theme, the themes rarely preach and the film can easily be enjoyed as a fantasy-comedy-action hybrid. On that point, every element in this film is balanced very well to create a moderate pace -- there are few moments when the film loses some momentum, but it generally moves at a steady pace and keeps the audience engaged.

The Japanese voice acting is superb. Color me surprised when I found out Chieko Baisho voiced both the younger and older Sophie; Baisho is extremely talented with great enthusiasm, excitement, and overall emotion in her voice. The animation is beautiful throughout with lush and vivid colors, along with the uniquely designed characters and settings. I also thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack, it's enchanting and adventurous capturing both of the strongest elements in the film. Hayao Miyazaki's direction and writing are as strong as ever, I don't need to praise this genius anymore than I have already, though.

Overall, Howl's Moving Castle is a superb fantasy adventure with so much to offer. It's significant themes, at least most of the them, serve as very effective backdrops, and the mystifying and entertaining adventure takes center stage. This another fantastic animated film the entire family can and should enjoy; in other words, I strongly recommend it.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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