Run time: 119 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 20th November 2004
Box Office USA: $4.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $234.7M
Distributed by: Buena Vista
Production compaines: d-rights, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, DENTSU Music And Entertainment, Mitsubishi, Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV), Studio Ghibli, Tohokushinsha Film, Tokuma Shoten
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 139 Rotten: 20
IMDB: 8.2 / 10
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Takuya Kimura as Hauru, Akihiro Miwa as Arechi no Majo, Tatsuya Gashûin as Karushifâ, Mitsunori Isaki as Koshô, Yo Oizumi as Kakashi no Kabu, Akio Ôtsuka as Kokuô, Daijiro Harada as Hin, Haruko Kato as Sariman, Ryunosuke Kamiki as Marukuru, Chieko Baishô as Sofi
If nothing else, it proves to Hollywood that its recentfailure in the animated realm comes not from old-fashioned hand-drawn animationbut from its severe lack of imagination and over-reliance on fart jokesand pop culture references.
The first of Miyazaki's films to be based on a book, "Howl'sMoving Castle" quickly establishes itself with the director's personalsignature, bursting with enough ideas and imagination to make up half adozen summer movies.
It begins, as most of his stories do, with a shy younggirl, Sophie (voiced for this English-language version by Emily Mortimer).She works in a hat shop and humbly watches as life passes her by. But oneday a handsome fellow -- whom she will come to know as Master Howl (voicedby Christian Bale) -- rescues her from an alleyway altercation and accidentallysteers her into all-new problems, involving several ghostly, globular thingswearing porkpie hats.
Before she knows it, a witch (Lauren Bacall) has cursedSophie and turned her into an old lady (and her voice changes to that ofthe legendary Jean Simmons). In an attempt to find the witch and reversethe curse, she stumbles upon Howl's titular castle, a rattletrap contraptionthat roils and jostles its way across the countryside on mechanical feetthat resemble a camel's.
The plot grows ever more complicated, and has somethingto do with lost hearts, a fire spirit named Calcifer (Billy Crystal), andmore magic than you can shake a broomstick at.
Blessedly, Miyazaki doesn't bother to sort out the storyusing mere logic. He instead goes with his instincts, like a child inventinga playtime universe and making up the rules in the moment. The great filmmakeruses primal forces to tell his story, like wind and cold, feeling yourage, or feeling hungry. It's a purely visceral ride.
The filmmaker's most unique attribute, his uncanny senseof space, time and weight, is still here. When Old Sophie and the witchclimb the endless stairs to a royal palace, you feel every straining step.
Unlike most animated films, which feel the need to constantlymove at a breakneck pace, Miyazaki loves to sit still from time to time,just listening or watching or waiting, as did the great Japanese directorYasujiro Ozu before him. It gives viewers a moment to rest and reflect,and it keeps the film from growing tedious.
But when Miyazaki starts moving, it's best to hold on.If the characters fly through the air, we can feel the height and the sensationof floating. Many movies use "roller coaster ride" to describethrilling sensations, but Miyazaki takes that literally.
Pixar's Pete Docter and Rick Dempsey directed the Englishvoice cast, and they've done another remarkable job. It's great to hearJean Simmons again, a gorgeous young woman back in the 1940s in David Lean's"Great Expectations," Michael Powell's "Black Narcissus"and Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet." Her voice still sparkles today.