Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Studio Ghibli veteran Hiromasa Yonebayashi adapts Mary Stewart’s 1971 children’s novel The Little Broomstick into this charming, entertaining, just-dark-enough GKIDS import. The story sutures together pieces from Spirited Away and the Harry Potter series: Mary, a bored but courageous orphan with wild red hair, bemoans her adventure-less life in the country, only to get unexpectedly whisked away to a school of magic in the sky. Acquiring short-term “powers” from a magic flower she finds in the woods, Mary bluffs her way through the school gates, but she is forced to become a hero when her lies put other people in danger. Mary and the Witch’s Flower doesn’t possess the substance and seamlessness of When Marnie Was There, Yonebayashi’s previous effort: the in-scene pacing sometimes feels arrhythmic, and the characters rarely emerge from the plot clutter. However, this is still a compulsively watchable film with a strong female hero and a deluge of gorgeous images. D.B.