Master storyteller Hayao Miyazaki follows up his Academy Award-winning animated film Spirited Away with a tale of wizards, witches, spells, and a mysterious walking castle.
The story concerns a timid hat-decorator Sofi (Emily Mortimer), who falls under an aging spell by the Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall). Sofi is forced to seek out an eccentric wizard named Howl (Christian Bale) whose magical wandering castle travels around the country. She can't talk about her curse or who cursed her. Sofi becomes Howl's new housecleaner in hopes of one day finding her freedom.
The intricate worlds, animals, machines, supporting players, and magic that Miyazaki dreams up is always out of this world and a sight to behold. There are so many storylines in this film that you just never know where the film will go next.
My favorite characters in the whole film were the silent bouncing scarecrow Turnip-Head and of course Billy Crystal's delightful fiery character Calcifer. Crystal is out of this world as this character and has so many clever moments.
I have to admit I did have some problems with some of the story and the film's eventual conclusion. I never felt that Sofi's age-transition was properly discussed or examined, especially in the last half of the film. I also felt that her story arc suffered greatly from the overwhelming Howl storyline. The film's conclusion feels way too Disney and didn't wrap up some of the other characters' storylines.
Miyazaki's new epic fantasy is amazing, breathtaking, and a sight to behold. Miyazaki has always had a gift for finding the most interesting and fantastical stories. Howl's Moving Castle will fit nicely into his body of work. (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.