June 26, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle (2005)

This is the follow-up to "Spirited Away" by Hayao Miyazaki.

I just watched the whole thing twice! First I watched the Japanese version with subtitles and then followed it by suffering the Disney version (with Christian Bale and Jean Simmons dubbing!).

I have to say I was disappointed more by the latter than the original language version but... I was still disappointed.

This was just not as involving or as much fun as "Spirited Away". The story was a lot weaker even though it did hold my attention for about three-quarters of the film before I started to get a bit bored.

The problem is that this is too kiddie-fied. I tend to avoid "family" movies anyway because they are just so inspidid but this one really was a girlie sickener. All love story and hardly any action... this isn't the kind of cartoon we want at all!

The story, for those who don't know, is hardly a complicated one. There's a wizard called Howl (or at least a name that sounds like that in Japanese!) and he lives in a mechanical castle on legs. It reminded me a lot of the Russian Baba-Yaga story. The castle even has the same chicken legs if you look closely.

Then there's a girl called Sophie who works in a hat shop, meets Howl in the street while he is being chased by shadowy creatures, and gets cursed for no particular reason by "The Witch of the Waste". She is turned into an old woman and ends up going to Howl presumably to seek a cure. It is more luck than judgement how she ends up in his castle though.

Anyway, once inside the castle, Sophie becomes Howl's cleaning lady, gets up to all sorts of stuff, befriends a little boy and a talking fire (who used to be an evil spirit and powers the castle now!), and from time to time changes backwards and forwards between an old woman and her original self.

Sophie, of course, falls in love with Howl and has to rescue him finally after a huge battle (which was a bit disappointing really). They get free of their respective curses, set a few other cursed people free of their curses along the way, and finally end up together living happily ever after in the castle.

Not much to it at all really. The animation is a lot more refined, and is often far more "cutesy", than in "Spirited Away" but you just don't feel involved enough in the story to care.

You might like it, but, as I still prefer "Spirited Away", I can't really recommend it to you. You can watch the entire thing for free on YouTube anyway, so it's only time that you will waste.

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