Howl's Moving Castle

Rated PG 119 minutes 2005

For all their exceptionality, there is also a numbing sameness and confounding ambiguity to the movies of animator Hayao Miyazaki, whose latest is an adaptation of the 1986 book by Diana Wynne Jones. A small, plain woman named Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer) runs the family hat shop and believes herself doomed to a lonely and dull existence, till she encounters the foppish flying wizard Howl (Christian Bale) and the obese Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall), who turns Sophie into a stooped, shriveled 90-year-old. Sophie, now voiced by Jean Simmons, sneaks out of town and into the wastelands over the hill, where she encounters a cursed scarecrow, the cowardly Howl, and a little dog -- yes, it's all so very Wizard of Oz. Sophie takes up residence as the cleaning woman in Howl's moving castle, a ramshackle iron giant that looks like something excised from a Monty Python animated interlude. This is a children's tale, told through a combination of old-fashioned animation and new-fangled computer generation, that's wondrous to behold -- if only as a distraction from a confounding storyline.

Film Credits

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

Producer: Toshio Suzuki

Cast: Chieko Baishô, Takuya Kimura, Akihiro Miwa, Tatsuya Gashuin, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mitsunori Isaki, Yô Ôizumi, Akio Ôtsuka, Daijiro Harada and Haruko Kato

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