Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Movie Review: Howl's Moving Castle

I first saw this film at the BYU International Cinema with my friends from the BYU 38th Ward Book Club. Given that it was originally produced by Studio Ghibli in Japan, I'm surprised that the decision makers for the BYU International Cinema chose to show the English-dubbed version rather than the Japanese version with English subtitles.[1] But since that's how they chose to show the film, that's how I first experienced it. And it may be the only film where I prefer the English-dubbed version over the original language. The movie is based on the 1986 book, Howl's Moving Castle, by British author, Diana Wynne Jones. That is, I should say, loosely based on the book. There are quite a few differences between the movie and the book, several of which are significant.

My verdict: If you've seen anything else by Hayao Miyazaki you know to expect some weird sequences and some disgusting-looking characters. This film is no different. In general, though, the animation is lush and exquisitely detailed. There are a lot of unusual aspects to the story, but they all come together, eventually, and make sense. I can't say that I ever really like Howl as a character, but he's still intriguing. Sophie, Calcifer, Markl, the Witch of the Waste, and Turnip Head are a lot more enjoyable. If you've never experienced Japanese animation, I would recommend you try starting with this one.[2]


[1] It's possible, though, that at the time only the English-dubbed version was available. Dubbing the film into English was overseen by Pixar's Peter Doctor (director of Monster's, Inc. and Up). The film was subsequently distributed in North America by Disney.

[2] If you find it a little confusing, read the synopsis over at Wikipedia, which is pretty good.

Image attributions:

Bodiam Castle is by Antony McCallum, available at


  1. Sadly, I loaned out my copy of the film and the novel. They never came home... *sniff* Oh well.

    I remember the whole theater laughing at the line, SPOILER ALERT: "I'm the Prince form the neighboring kingdom who's been missing."

  2. As I recall, Luther was particularly fond of that line.