Monday, September 24, 2012

Family Movie Night: Howl's Moving Castle

Title: Howl's Moving Castle
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Original Release: 2004
Choice: Our Girl's
My Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Image via Bara Lotus Garden

Howl's Moving Castle is absolutely stunning visually, even by Miyazaki standards. For that alone, it is tempting to call this film my favorite of the Japanese master's opus.  It's a close call, but I think I prefer My Neighbor, Totoro - beauty in simplicity.  I was fighting off a fever as we watched on Friday night - an interesting state in which to watch a very dreamlike movie.

The film is based on Diane Wynne Jones's novel of the same name.  I have never read it but, partly upon Charles the Reader's recommendation, it's now on the to-read list.  As with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the plot is fairly involved.  Basically, Sophie, an 18-year-old girl is cursed by a witch to appear as an old woman.  She takes off in search of a way to lift the curse.  In her travels she meets a scarecrow who leads her to the protection of Howl, a powerful benevolent wizard.  From there, like I said, it gets pretty complicated but definitely well worth the ride.

Image via Fanpop

A scarecrow leading a girl to a wizard.  The girl is antagonized by the wicked Witch of the Waste.  Sound familiar?  The movie is chock full of Wizard of Oz allusions, greatly adding to the appeal for me.  Howl just wants his heart back.  There's even a little dog, too.  Alas, no flying monkeys.

Multi-generational considerations:
  • This one could be a decent starter movie if you're new to Miyazaki.  There is plenty of action for the kids and more than enough complexity for the adults.  Totoro might be better for a child with the patience for a quieter film.

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.


  1. Have you seen the latest movie by Studio Ghibli, The Secret World of Arrietty?

    1. Oh, yes! We saw that on the big screen. Here's my review:

    2. Thanks for the link!

  2. This is one I haven't watched. I think we have nearly every other Miyazaki film in our library with the exception of Nausicaa and Arriety. No flying monkeys I can forgive but is there some intimation of a large feline with courage issues?

    1. There is a moment when Sophie tells one of the characters she needs to have a little more courage!

      Suze, if you haven't tried this one, I can't recommend it enough. Like I said, on the quieter end of the spectrum, I prefer Totoro. But this one has it all.

    2. I will watch it. Like yours, my family loves to watch films on the weekend so we will put it on our list.

    3. I hope you'll share your thoughts once you do.