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Howl's Moving Castle [2005] - 5.97

Customer reviews (av rating: 5.0):

Rating: 5:
FANTASTC :-) : After watching Spirited Away and really enjoying it, I decided to see what else was out there and if any were better. And this is it.

The characters are so good, the animation excellent and the story line brilliant, all in all a fantastic film that will leave you feeling great. One for all the family.

You won't be disapointed with this.

Rating: 5:
Excellent for Kids & Adults alike : This is a GREAT DVD Anime. One of a series (see Kikis Delivery Service) - great animation, grat story line - all round good fun. Adults will enjoy the humour & animation as much as kids will enjoy the story!

Rating: 5:
A feast for the senses : There's rarely any criticism levelled at any of Hayao Miyazaki's works, but I had heard on the film-reviewing grapevine that this latest film in his awe-inspiring catalogue was not quite up to the standard of his previous outing `Spirited Away' and that while a fun diversion `Howl's Moving Castle' was simply not in the same league. So I was a bit hesitant at first to purchase this DVD, but having now experienced the film in all of its animated glory, I can now unreservedly agree with that opinion and say that `Howl's Moving Castle' is not as good as `Spirited Away'.....it's actually even better!

It may not possess the serious story, or be quite as dark in tone, but there's still an intriguing morality tale at the heart of this film- Sophie is an incredibly charismatic heroine and her story is never anything other than compelling and the voices are (as is always the case with a Miyazaki film) pure perfection and compliment the animation seamlessly; Jean Simmons and Christian Bale are particularly excellent, but just the tip of the stellar-cast-iceberg that this film presents so spectacularly to its hungry audience.

I've watched this DVD again and again, and it gets better every time because there are thousands of little details that make this film so special and that can only be appreciated with multiple viewings. A feast for your senses, enjoy!

Rating: 5:
What a howl : Not a lot of directors would be brave enough to take on a love story between a girl-turned-old-lady and a wizard missing a vital organ.

But Oscar-winning director/writer Hayao Miyazaki tackles a new fantasy realm in in "Howl's Moving Castle." In this case, it's the world of fantasy dowager Diana Wynne Jones, and he wraps the storyline in humor, romance and genuine flair. No, it's not faithful. But it is fantastic.

Sophie (Emily Mortimer) is a plain, unhappy young woman working in a milliner's shop. But then the evil Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall) comes into the shop, and turns her into a hobbled old lady (Jean Simmons). Sophie ends up wandering into the Moving Castle, a chicken-legged chaos machine, and encountering the sexy, immature wizard Howl (Christian Bale), smart-aleck fire demon Calcifur (Billy Crystal), and preteen apprentice Markl (Josh Hutcherson).

Sophie appoints herself the cleaning lady and starts whipping the castle into shape, trying to deal with Howl's temper tantrums and the rapidly deepening war. And, of course, trying to de-curse herself. But when she runs an errand that Howl is too scared to deal with, she finds that her new boss has some sinister problems of his own -- including a missing heart.

Don't expect much fidelity to the humorous fantasy novel. Miyazaki takes plenty of liberties with the story, leaving out characters and adjusting others. As a result, it feels more like his story than Jones', with the earmarks of his style -- blobby monsters, colorful rural settings, intense anti-war messages, strange machines, and a Jules-Verne atmosphere of Victorian technology. But "Howl's Moving Castle" is very different from the others Miyazaki has done, since he kept the British flavour of the original book.

Moreover, it's a love story. Miyazaki has vaguely touched on romance in prior movies, but here it's full-blown, and surprisingly un-cheesy. In less skilled hands, having Howl say "I finally found something worth protecting. It's you" would seem inane. In Miyazaki's hands, it's not. And even though Sophie looks elderly through most of the movie, Miyazaki never falls into trite observations about inner beauty. He just lets the story show it.

Not that it's all lovey-doviness -- Sophie's housecleaning and Calcifur ("Sophie, help! I'm going out!") provide plenty of amusement. And the animation is as close to flawless as you can get, from the chaotic absurdity Castle to the breathtaking aerial battles that Howl swoops in on. Tiny details are everywhere, from painted ceiling beams to elaborate doorknobs. Calcifur is the one sore point -- he's not done badly, but he looks vaguely artificial.

There are a few flaws in that the story could have used a bit more fleshing out -- at times the relationships between the characters are sketchy. Not much detail, for example, is given about sorceress Suliman (Blythe Danner) and her relationship to Howl, why she's so peeved at him. And it's a bit hard to comprehend why Howl's condition would turn him into a monster bird.

And while there are the usual "howls" that the English dubbing is inferior to the original Japanese vocal work, the American voice actors did exceptional work. Christian Bale and Billy Crystal are the major standouts -- Crystal is funny and dry as usual, while Bale is sultry, sexy, soft-spoken and deep. Except, of course, when Howl runs around the house wailing that his hair is ruined.

"Howl's Moving Castle" moves on a little too fast in places, but it's still a breathtaking, romantic, colorful ride. A wonderful story, told by one of the few filmmakers who could do it justice.

Rating: 5:
Who can resist real magic? : "Howl's Moving Castle", directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is a thoroughly delightful movie that young children will love, and adults enjoy. You don't believe that both children and adults can appreciate the same film? Well, some of Miyazaki's cartoons are simply magic, and "Howl's Moving Castle" is one of them. And who can resist real magic?

The main character is Sophie, a 19-year-old girl that leads a very boring life until the unbelievable happens: she is cursed by a spiteful witch, and turned into a very old woman. The only person who can break the spell is a wizard, so Sophie decides to leave the city and search for him. Sophie will find the wizard she was searching for, but also some unlikely friends, a moving castle and love. Things will not be easy, though, as Sophie is unable to tell her friends she is under a curse, and their country is in the middle of a war. What will happen? Well, watch this movie and you will see :)

All in all, I can tell you that I loved "Howl's Moving Castle", and that I highly recommend it to you.

Belen Alcat

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