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Howl's Moving Castle

An animated movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki

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Is that really Christian Bale?

  • May 17, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+5
Still hard for me to believe that the man who, while on the set for Terminator Salvation, dropped enough F-Bombs to defeat the Germans in World War II is the same man doing the voice of Howl. But such is the nature of voice-over, I suppose. Part of my disillusionment is that I really liked Howl's Moving Castle, and for that matter, the character Howl. Howl has the reputation of a playboy, stealing the hearts of women. It gets a little scary when we learn that the reputation also includes eating their hearts. So maybe Christian Bale knew what he was doing when he took on this role. Actually, he probably knew exactly what he was doing. One of the most engaging parts about Howl is that he fits the celebrity persona to a "T". I'm serious. He's flashy, cocky, self-absorbed and cowardly. And worse, he has the good looks to get away with all of it! However, like some celebrities, he actually turns out to be a likable narcissist.

Howl meets Sophie, who is diametrically different than himself. She's plain in appearance and without an ounce of pretense; and somehow this garners a genuine interest from Howl. Sophie pays the price though when a jealous witch retaliates by turning her into an old woman. From here the story begins. And what a story it is. After all, it's not often that you get to see a child-friendly story about a loving attraction between a Magician Playboy and a 90 year old woman. Sure, underneath the elderly spell Sophie is really only 18 years old (qualifying her as the ideal celebrity obsessed groupie). But until she can break the witch's spell she'll have to wrestle with her achy breaky heart and her achy breaky bones. Howl may be a magician, but he has no magic to help her arthritis, and Celebrex hasn't yet hit the market.

The magic of this magical tale comes part from the source book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones; but also because of the storytelling flair of director Hayao Miyazaki. Unlike Disney films that have a predictable story structure, Miyazaki's films usually indulge in a playful circuitous "2nd act" that gives no indication of when it will ever get back on track and head for the end of the story. In this case, the visuals are so lush that this is exactly what you want: to forget that you are watching a movie and get lost in Miyazaki's meandering imagination.

The other thing about Miyazaki is that his characters walk right up to the line of cliché and then make a sharp detour. For instance, the witch that casts her spell on Sophie turns out to be, well, not quite a bad woman after all. In fact, she's an endearing old lady herself with a bit of sass. And as I pointed out before, Howl is not the perfectly mannered male that we're used to in most kid-cozy animations. He's a brat, but a very likable one. These character twists keep the story from being a typical tale of good and evil. Instead, everybody is delightfully idiosyncratic – especially the fire demon Calcifer, who is voiced by Billy Crystal.

And then, of course, there's the castle itself, which I'd triple what I currently pay in rent to turn into my new abode. But until the castle comes a-walkin' in my 'hood, I'll settle for repeat viewings of this excellent DVD, which I've fwatched more times than I'll ever admit.
Howl's Moving Castle

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October 03, 2009
I think it'll be most interesting to watch a movie with you! I've had fun reading these reviews. You certainly make me laugh :D Thanks for that, I need it!
October 04, 2009
Hey, so where in the world are you now? Alaska, Egypt, Madagascar...Toronto?
October 04, 2009
Right this moment, China. Who knows where next? Probably Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia in no particular order. Toronto sometime before the year ends, I hope!
 
May 23, 2009
I didn't know that was Christian Bale! I accidentally tuned into this movie when I was home sick. I adored the movie. I thought it was magical. It is like stories that kids make up with their awesome imagination. Thanks for the great review.
May 23, 2009
Yeah, that was him. Doesn't sound like him at all. I love this movie too. You might enjoy other Miyazaki films, like Princess Mononoke and especially Spirited Away. If you watch them let me know what you think.
 
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More Howl's Moving Castle (movie) reviews
review by . June 03, 2013
Definitely my favourite Studio Ghibli film so far. I thought it was a billion times more thought provoking and aesthetically pleasing than Spirited Away which everyone seems to love (even though that's a pretty awesome film too). The characters, story line and morals are wonderful. I'd definitely recommend!
review by . June 03, 2013
Howl's Moving Castle
I recently watched Howl's Moving Castle and recommend it to everyone. It's a beautiful movie and I think that everyone would enjoy it.      The film is about a girl named Sophie who gets cursed by a witch and is forced to leave her home town and reside in a castle in the wasteland owned by a wizard named Howl.                
review by . November 17, 2008
A different kind of anime   This one was first a book   And although very different   The movie's worth a look     A wizard's castle moves about   A demon's in the ashes   A young woman's under a spell   And now she's past hot flashes     Working in a hatter's shop   Avoiding all the hassle   Until the spell changes her life   and lands her in the castle     The …
review by . November 15, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Beautiful colors, lovable characters – good times all around     Cons: Story can become a little confusing     The Bottom Line: Feel like being young again? Well here's your ticket.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. I happened to look at my corkboard this morning where I have a tiny list of things to review tacked up there. Suddenly I realized (*gasp!*) I hadn’t ever done my review of …
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Wiki

Acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki adapts British writer Diana Wynne Jones's popular fantasy tale for this animated feature, adding his own unique and celebrated dreamlike spin. A young hat-maker named Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer) is turned into an old woman by the dreaded Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall) when she attracts the notice of Howl (Christian Bale), a young wizard whom the witch desires for herself. As the old woman, (voiced by Jean Simmons), Sophie finds refuge as a cleaning lady in Howl's magical castle, an impressively realized mishmash of anthropomorphic shafts and gears, where she meets, among other wonders, a cantankerous fire demon named Calcifer (Billy Crystal). Howl's courage inspires her to seek a cure for her curse, and vice versa, and the two work together to prevent a major war as the castle roams the countryside on its mechanical legs. There's lots of magic afoot as well, including travel through barriers of space and time, and shape-shifting, requiring full viewer ...
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Details

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Release Date: June 10, 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
DVD Release Date: March 07, 2006
Runtime: 1hr 59min
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