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Howl's Moving Castle (***)
Directed by Hayao Myiazaki
Written by Hayao Myiazaki, translated into English by Cindy Davis Hewitt and Donald H. Hewitt, loosely based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones
Principal Cast
Lauren Bacall -- Witch of the Waste
Christian Bale -- Howl
Billy Crystal -- Calcifer
Blythe Danner -- Madam Suliman
Crispin Freeman -- Prince Turnip
Josh Hutcherson -- Markl
Jena Malone -- Lettie
Emily Mortimer -- Young Sophie
Liliana Mumy -- Madge
Mark Silverman -- King
Jean Simmons -- Old Sophie
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Howl's Moving Castle Of the myriad Japanese animation directors, Hayao Myiazaki is the most prestigious, even if Cowboy Beebop and Trigun may be more fun. Myiazaki's anime are beautiful and poetic, but they tend to wander all over the place, without really rising to a climax. My favorite of his features is still his first, The Castle of Cagliostro. This new feature may be my next-to-favorite, and it benefits from being an adaptation of a book. Still, it just sort of wanders around and then abruptly ends, without any real confrontation. The opposition just decides to call it a day, and that's that.

Billy Crystal does a Robin Williams bit as Calcifer, which is amusing but does not really fit in with the rest of the film. The ways in which the protagonist changes ages are well and subtly done. But the hero is never very convincing, either in his strengths or his weaknesses.

The film is a persuasive piece of anti-war propaganda, and we need all of that we can get, in these days when we go to war based on false information and then don't know how to get out. My ex-wife used to keep gerbils, and the gerbils had baby gerbils, who grew up and had babies of their own. Before long, we had quite a lot of gerbils. One day I was looking at some pink newborns and going, "Awwwww. Babies." And then I noticed that the mother gerbil was eating her young. "Yeccch!" Remind me never to become sentimental about rodents with cute names. As surely as overcrowded gerbils eat their young, overcrowded humans go to war. It has become a habit. Even now, with population in the developed world nicely under control, thank you very much, every American president in my lifetime has fought his own special war, most of which nobody can even remember. It really is time to stop, and if Howl's Moving Castle convinces even a few children to vote against war when they grow up, it will have served a valuable purpose.

Meanwhile, it is entertaining without being thrilling. Its greatest virtue is its beauty; its greatest flaw its meandering plot.

Copyright © 2005 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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