Like a dream, "Howl's Moving Castle" carries audiences to vistas beyond their imaginations where they experience excitement, adventure, terror, humor, and romance. With domestic box office receipts of over $210 million, "Howl" passed Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" to become the #3 film in Japanese history, behind his "Spirited Away" and James Cameron's "Titanic".
Based on a juvenile novel by Diana Wynne Jones, "Howl's Moving Castle" marks the first time Miyazaki has adapted another writer's work since "Kiki's Delivery Service" (1989). Sophie, a 19-year-old girl who believes she is plain, has resigned herself to a drab life in her family's hat shop--until the Witch of the Waste transforms her into a 90-year-old woman. In her aged guise, Sophie searches for a way to break the Witch's spell and finds unexpected adventures. Like Chihiro, the heroine of "Spirited Away", Sophie discovers her hidden potential in a magical environment--the castle of the title.
Using CG, Miyazaki creates a ramshackle structure that looks like it might disintegrate at any moment. Sophie's honesty and determination win her some valuable new friends: Markl, Howl's young apprentice; a jaunty scarecrow; Calcifer, a temperamental fire demon; and Heen, a hilarious, wheezing dog. She wins the heart of the dashing, irresponsible wizard Howl, and brings an end an unnecessary and destructive war. The film overflows with eclipsing visuals that range from frightening aerial battles to serene landscapes, and few recent features--animated or live action--offer as much magic as "Howl's Moving Castle".--"Charles Solomon"