*½/**** Image B Sound A- Extras B
screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki (American adaptation by Cindy Davis Hewitt & Donald H. Hewitt), based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones
directed by Hayao Miyazaki
by Walter Chaw I've never liked it much when the Japanese are drawn to Victoriana, finding parallels as they sometimes seem to between that reserved, sexually-repressive culture and their own, because it most often results in garbage like Katsuhiro Ôtomo's exhausting Steamboy and now master Hayao Miyazaki's disappointing Howl's Moving Castle. Slow, not terribly interested in lore or internal logic, and fatally hamstrung by the choice of actors like Billy Crystal and a zombified Emily Mortimer to voice its American dub, it's a regression for Miyazaki from his last two films (Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away) in almost every sense, starting with his decision to have a lonely young woman as the central character in place of the prepubescent little girls front and centre in most of his masterpieces (the last two films, Kiki's Delivery Service, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and My Neighbor Totoro) and ending with a gross simplification of his usually complex themes of confidence and actualization into a colourless, flavourless drone about the hard-to-dispute badness of war.