Howl’s Moving Castle – Review

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A jealous old witch curses beautiful young Sophie (Emily Mortimer), turning her into an ugly old woman. Unable to face her family, Sophie runs away from home, in the hope of finding a way to undo the curse.

She stumbles across a magical, moving castle, that looks like it was thrown together during an episode of Scrapheap Challenge. During the adventures that follow, she befriends a mute scare-crow, an amiable fire demon (Billy Crystal) and the mysterious wizard, Howl (Christian Bale) – who’s mythical castle carries him from city to city, whose rulers use him to help them fight their civil war.

The fire demon says he’ll lift Sophie’s curse, if she helps him break free from Howl, who also elicits her help in his battle against evil.


The Oscar winner (for Spirited Away) Miyazaki’s animation is undoubtedly spectacular. His story-telling is nothing like as accomplished.

One minute Sophie’s fat, the next thin. One minute her hair’s black, the next grey. Miyazaki pays too much attention to detail for these to be a continuity errors, but there’s no other discernible – or at least logical – reason for the inconsistency.

You feel that Howl’s vanity requires some comeuppance (particularly if the film is aimed at children, in this modern PC world) and too many smaller characters outlive their sell-by date – once they’ve served their purpose, plotwise, they just hang around, for no apparent reason other than to give the artists more to do. And the denouement is clumsy and plodding.

The twists and turns will be too complicated for all but the most logical of minds, so there’ll be little to appeal to children other than the colours, comic characters and clever contraptions.

It’s undoubtedly beautiful to look at, but the plot is overblown and confusingly surreal.