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"HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE"
(2005) (voices of Jean Simmons, Christian Bale) (PG)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Minor Mild Heavy *Moderate Extreme
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor None Mild None None
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor Minor Minor Moderate Moderate


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Having been turned into an elderly woman by a witch, a hat maker sets out to find a wizard who might be able to help her, and tags along for a ride inside his gargantuan, mobile castle.
PLOT:
In some far off land that's at war, Sophie (voice of EMILY MORTIMER) is a young girl who makes hats in her family's business. When some soldiers harass her in an alleyway, a mysterious and magical figure rescues her, but the two must avoid the monstrous minions of a local witch. The latter, known as the Witch of the Waste (voice of LAUREN BACALL), later pays Sophie a visit and casts a spell on her. It turns Sophie into an elderly woman (voice of JEAN SIMMONS) with the provision that she can't tell any of the spell or who she is or was.

Realizing she can no longer work or live at the shop with her mother, the stooped-over Sophie sets out to find help. The first character she encounters is a mute and emotionless scarecrow who bounces along the countryside on his pole. It eventually leads her to an enormous, mechanical-looking castle that slowly lumbers across the lands and is powered by a fuel demon known as Calcifer (voice of BILLY CRYSTAL). Inside is an old wizard who really turns out to be a young boy, Markl (voice of JOSH HUTCHERSON), who's an apprentice to the castle's owner.

And that turns out to be the dashing Howl (voice of CHRISTIAN BALE), the same wizard who earlier saved Sophie. He doesn't recognize her, and since she can't tell him what happened to her, she offers to work as his maid and clean up the messy castle. It features a door-based portal to various places and lands, including the war-torn area where Sophie lived. Howl is torn between feeling the need to battle the wizards who now fight for the enemy in the war and his own raging ego and selfishness, especially when his oath is to serve the king and fight in the war.

Thus, Sophie heads off to visit the king's head sorceress, Madame Suliman (voice of BLYTHE DANNER), to find out what's what. As the war continues to worsen and Howl must decide whether to face his obligations, Sophie hopes that someone might help remove the old age spell from her.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they're into anime films, they probably will.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG
For frightening images and brief mild language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • SOPHIE is the young hat maker who's turned into an old woman under a spell by the Witch of the Waste. Unable to tell anyone who she is or what happened to her, she tags along with Howl and his motley crew in hopes of having the spell removed.
  • HOWL is the mostly self-centered and vain wizard who has a tendency to turn into a large, birdman-type creature, but occasionally shows acts of helping others.
  • WITCH OF THE WASTE is a nasty witch who puts the old age spell on Sophie just out of spite, but must then contend with no longer having her magical powers later in the story.
  • MADAME SULIMAN is the king's head sorceress who wants Howl to serve under her.
  • CALCIFER is the fire demon who's under a spell to fuel the power that moves Howl's castle.
  • MARKL is the young wizard apprentice to Howl.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this animated drama that's been rated PG. Various scenes and related visuals (of monsters and other creepy creatures, warfare with nighttime bombings, and transformations of various characters might be unsettling or scary to some younger viewers, but probably not at all to older kids. Other moments of potentially suspenseful peril are also present, as are various bad attitudes (witches casting spells, selfish and vain people, etc.), while viewers opposed to magic and such probably won't like what's on display here.

    We see scenes of warfare where bombs are dropped on buildings below, while some wizards briefly battle in the sky while in the form of bird creatures. Some cartoon goo and other less gross looking material is present (some characters holding one's heart, although the owner is still alive as it's all symbolic), while one character briefly smokes a cigar and a male character is seen in a towel (with his suggested off-screen, non-sexual nudity possibly viewed by a female). Finally, some colorful phrases are present.

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • We see a trolley with what appears to be a beer advertisement on it.
  • We see what may be wine on a table.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Sophie enters the castle's filthy bathroom and finds putrid looking water in the tub.
  • Howl's head is on Calcipher's hearth and appears to be melting, with green goo on it as well as Howl and Sophie's hand when she touches him.
  • We see rolls of sweat-covered fat on the old witch as she tries to climb some stairs (some viewers might find that gross looking).
  • The Witch of the Waste gets Howl's heart (she holds it, but he's still alive and no worse for the wear since he hasn't had it the entire film).
  • Sophie travels through a portal into Howl's childhood where she sees him holding his own heart (nothing gory, he's just holding it -- which is all symbolic since he's still alive).
  • A drop of blood or maybe mud drips down onto Howl.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • For those opposed to magic, spells and such, the film is filled with much of that as it features wizards, witches and more.
  • Some girls joke with one another that the wizard only preys on pretty girls (thus implying that Sophie is safe).
  • Two soldiers won't let Sophie pass by them on the street.
  • The Witch of the Waste (initially looking like an obese woman) enters the hat store after closing, won't leave and tells Sophie "You're the tackiest thing here." She then turns into a scary-looking witch, races at and then flows through Sophie (passing through her), casting her aging spell on her.
  • We hear that Howl has Calcipher imprisoned, but in reality they're bonded by a spell.
  • Howl is upset that his hair has changed color and then throws a tantrum, saying there's no point in living if he can't be beautiful.
  • We hear that Howl had his heart stolen and thus only uses his powers for selfish reasons (although he earlier helped Sophie).
  • Sophie's mom reluctantly took a job for Suliman (to let the latter know Sophie's whereabouts).
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Various visuals in the film - including the large, lumbering castle (that looks like a gargantuan, mechanical animal) when it's first seen coming through the fog as well as the various demons and other monsters, and the transformation of various characters into older versions of themselves - might be unsettling or scary to some younger viewers, but probably not at all to older kids. The same holds true for various scenes depicting warfare (particularly nighttime bombings that leave buildings destroyed, damaged and/or burning.
  • Some sort of black, long-limbed things flow out of walls and then pursue Howl and Sophie down an alley, but the former lifts off with Sophie into the air to safety. Those black figures later slither into some sort of small container placed out for them.
  • The Witch of the Waste (initially looking like an obese woman) enters the hat store after closing, won't leave and tells Sophie "You're the tackiest thing here." She then turns into a scary-looking witch, races at and then flows through Sophie (passing through her), casting her aging spell on her.
  • A mute scarecrow on a pole comes bouncing toward Sophie (but turns out to be benign).
  • We hear that Calcifer is a "fire demon," but he isn't remotely scary in appearance or demeanor.
  • A war plane lets out many large bird-like creatures with sharp teeth (later identified as wizards) and Howl, having transformed into a different sort of birdman, flies and smashes into them.
  • There's talk of the spirits of darkness and we then hear sounds and see ghostly/shadowy figures in the room.
  • Howl's head is on Calcipher's hearth and appears to be melting, with green goo on it as well as Howl and Sophie's hand when she touches him.
  • Howl, Sophie and the Witch of the Waste (now powerless) end up underwater and then in the air with Suliman's goons after them, but they manage to elude them and others during a chase in the skies.
  • Sophie (in an open flying machine) crash lands into Howl's moving castle, but is okay. That wrecked "plane" then falls away from the castle and nearly lands on Markl, the scarecrow and a dog (but they avoid being hit by it).
  • Suliman's henchmen fly out of a flying ship and briefly chase Howl and Sophie.
  • Various bombs land in the town and explode, resulting in various fires. Some blob henchmen arrive and burst through a door, while more bombs drop and a great deal of property damage occurs.
  • Some large blob henchmen try to get in to seize or kill some good characters.
  • A big plane is on fire and a scary looking demon comes out from it.
  • The castle collapses after everyone inside it manages to get out. What's then left of the castle stumbles along and falls apart, with Sophie and a dog falling down into a ravine (but they're okay).
  • The Witch of the Waste gets Howl's heart (she holds it, but he's still alive and no worse for the wear since he hasn't had it the entire film).
  • Some kids might worry when Calcipher's fire nearly goes out, and later Sophie pours water on him to stop the Witch of the Waste (but Calcipher is okay and later is freed from his spell).
  • The very last part of the castle collapses, with its platform then sliding out of control down a hill, with the scarecrow saving the day and those on the platform by stopping it right at the edge of a cliff.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • We see a train rolling by with tanks on it, while people cheer rifle carrying soldiers as they pass by.
  • We see both airborne and seagoing battleships.
  • Various soldiers/guards carry rifles.
  • Warplanes drop bombs in various scenes.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "You're the tackiest thing here," "You sound ghastly," "Turnip-head," "What a dump," "It burns me up," "Move it, grandma," "Idiot," "God forsaken," "You cold-hearted old hag," "Just shut up," "Are you nuts?" and "It's freaking me out."
  • Markl eats right off the edge of his plate.
  • Calcipher eats Sophie's pigtail for power.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A mild amount of suspenseful music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • None.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see Howl in just a towel. Later, Sophie sees that towel on the floor, but we don't see any nudity (although she might).
  • SMOKING
  • The scarecrow has a pipe in its mouth.
  • The Witch of the Waste smokes what looks like a cigar.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We hear that the hat shop belonged to Sophie's father (thus implying he's dead or gone).
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Wizards, witches and other sorts of magic on display here.
  • Warfare.
  • What it's like to be old.
  • Sophie's friend Lettie says that Sophie should do something nice for herself once.
  • When and where the film is supposed to be set (there are old-fashioned, steam-powered cars, but also flying battleships, etc.).
  • The castle's magic, portal door that leads to different places and lands through the same opening.
  • That when Howl looks in on Sophie who's sleeping, she appears to be young again.
  • Howl is upset that his hair has changed color and then throws a tantrum, saying there's no point in living if he can't be beautiful.
  • Despite his powers, Howl states that he can't stand how scared he is.
  • The loose Beauty and the Beast analogy at play here.
  • The Witch of the Waste gets Howl's heart (she holds it, but he's still alive and no worse for the wear since he hasn't had it the entire film).
  • VIOLENCE
  • We see war planes dropping bombs, with resultant explosions. Some of those planes are hit, explode and fall from the sky.
  • A war plane lets out many large bird-like creatures with sharp teeth (later identified as wizards) and Howl, having transformed into a different sort of birdman, flies and smashes into them.
  • We see a battleship return from war and it's badly damaged and smoking.
  • A war plane drops several bombs as well as some propaganda.
  • Some guards/soldiers break down a door.
  • Sophie (in an open flying machine) crash lands into Howl's moving castle, but is okay.
  • We see various miscellaneous war explosions.
  • Various bombs land in the town and explode, resulting in various fires. Some blob henchmen arrive and burst through a door, while more bombs drop and a great deal of property damage occurs.



  • Reviewed May 26, 2005 / Posted June 17, 2005

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