Howl’s Moving Castle
Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki adapts Diana Wynne Jones’ children’s book. The Witch of the Waste (voiced in English by Lauren Bacall) becomes jealous of the wizard Howl’s (Christian Bale) relationship with a young girl (Emily Mortimer) and changes her into an old woman (Jean Simmons). The old woman becomes housekeeper in the wizard’s castle as it lumbers like a huge beast across the countryside. That’s only the beginning of a story that grows complicated almost to the point of insanity and may confuse younger children (or adults, for that matter). But Miyazaki’s stunning animation and characteristically vivid colors make the film a visual feast, complemented in the American version by fine voice work (including comic relief from Billy Crystal as the castle’s household “fire demon”).