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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Howl’s Moving Castle

posted by rkumar
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:Brief non-sexual nudity (mostly off-screen)
Alcohol/Drugs:Smoking
Violence/Scariness:Characters in peril, battle violence, enchantments
Diversity Issues:Strong female characters
Movie Release Date:2005
B
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Profanity: None
Nudity/Sex: Brief non-sexual nudity (mostly off-screen)
Alcohol/Drugs: Smoking
Violence/Scariness: Characters in peril, battle violence, enchantments
Diversity Issues: Strong female characters
Movie Release Date: 2005

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones seems especially suitable for adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki because it has many of his favorite themes. The central character is a young girl who shows determination and loyalty when she is brought into a world of strange and magical characters, many of whom appear oddly remote. She faces challenges that teach her that she is more capable and loving and deserving of love than she knew. And it has the kinds of settings that Miyazaki loves to illustrate, with intricate mechanical devices, characters who are transformed or disguised, and shifts of angles and planes that show off his gift for vertiginous perspectives.

The story is about a girl who is transformed into an old woman by a witch whose spell prevents her from even telling anyone what happened. So, she becomes the cleaning lady for a mysterious wizard who lives in a magical castle that flies from one place to another.

It turns out she is not the only one who is not what she seems. A graceful but silent scarecrow, a wheezing dog, a little boy, the wizard, and even the wicked witch will all have unexpected transformations as they try to escape from the order of the king, who wants all magicians to help him fight a war.

There are some gorgeous visuals,a lush field of flowers, a charming town, and the endlessly inventive castle, which moves along on chicken feet. But like the title character, it seems to be missing a heart. The characters are reserved and distant, and they tolerate, even seem to expect a level of disengagement from enemies, friends, and even family that is disconcerting. The voice talents include Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, and Christian Bale, but they never mesh; it’s as though each is in a different movie. It is unsettling that the objects — a flame (voice of Billy Crystal), a scarecrow, even the machines seem to have more personality than the humans. Ultimately, it is easier to appreciate the movie than to be enchanted or engaged by it.

Parents should know that this movie includes battle violence and frequent peril and tense confrontations. Characters are transformed or disguised in forms that may be troubling to some in the audience. A character smokes a cigar. There is brief non-sexual nudity (tush) and implied off-screen nudity.

Families who see this movie should talk about the advantages and disadvantates Sophie finds in being old. Why does she change her mind about the witch?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. They should read the book and some of the other stories by Diana Wynne Jones. They will also enjoy the books of Lloyd Alexander, Brian Jaques, and Tamora Pierce.

  • Hannah

    I watched this movie, and loved it. I liked the fact that the movie teaches children to look past the surface and to be courageous. But there were a few things that bothered me about it, and i wondered what your opinion is if you don’t mind. One issue was how the little fire who fuels the castle is supposedly a demon. They make him look like he is a kind and funny character. It also talks about how Calsifer, (the fire demon) ate Howl’s heart. The movie also has other scenes in it where they talk about other demons who ate other peoples hearts, and that just seems wrong to me… That was what pretty much annoyed me about the movie. When people have to use demons instead of just a magical being or something. It also made me wary how the demons supposedly ate peoples hearts, but then looked like they were a good character. Would you mind telling me what your oppinion is about the use of “demons” in this movie, and other movies as well? Would you also explain if you believe a Christian family should be subjecting themselves to this? Please let me know,
    Hannah- 17

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Hannah, I thank you for this thoughtful and heartfelt comment, beautifully expressed. Your soul shines through your words.
    I believe that true faith bolstered by study and deeds creates a spiritual strength that can draw the good lessons from stories without being put at risk from some of the details, and your comment shows that is exactly what happened here. Stories of the challenges we all face will often come as parables or allegories in the form of demons to make them more direct and to help us to recognize evil when it appears in real life in less obvious ways.

  • Hannah

    Thank you. Your answer gave me a bit to think about and I do like that idea. To help people determine the wrong in seemingly right circumstances. Now the demon theory in this movie is a somewhat positive thing… to a point at least. I won’t really feel uncomfortable watching this now that I have a different point of view to look through. Thank you for your insight. Appreciatively,
    Hannah

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    My pleasure, Hannah, and I hope you will return often to tell me what you think about the movies you see.

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