Howl's Moving Castle
Films by Hayao Miyazaki, Japan’s most revered anime auteur, tend to use the same basic elements—kickass animation, a strong young female protagonist, skepticism or hostility toward machinery, Captain Planet concern and affection for the natural world, an Orlando Bloom-pretty male romantic lead, and at least one adorable animal/inanimate object sidekick. Howl’s Moving Castle, his latest, has all of that. The young female protagonist is Sophie, a mousy shopgirl who gets cursed by a witch and heartbreakingly ages from a shy teenager (voiced by Emily Mortimer) to a plucky seventysomething (Jean Simmons) in a split second. And the Legolas look-alike is Howl (Christian Bale), a fabulously coiffed wizard whose mechanical “castle” tramps around the countryside like a spider. There’s also a fire demon (voiced by Billy Crystal, yet unannoying?!), dark bomber jets, and gooey tar creatures who seep through crevices and grow to menacing proportions in their rush to attack Sophie and Howl. If you like anime even a little, prepare to be stunned.