Writer: Hayao Miyazaki (Screenplay), Diana Wynne Jones (Novel)
Voiced By: Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, Emily Mortimer
Howl's Moving Castle is one of the best movies I've seen and will always hold a place dear to my heart. Its story is admittedly complicated and sometimes hard to follow. When you watch the film and truly understand it, you will discover the genius and love behind every scene, every piece of dialogue and every character. I completely disagree with other reviewers who claim this is not one of Hayao Miyazaki's best works. Personally, I feel the strongest emotionally for Howl's Moving Castle, even more than for Spirited Away (2001).
The story follows the journey of Sophie (Simmons), who is cursed by the Wicked Witch of the Waste (Bacall) and must live out her days as an old woman until the curse is broken. Knowing that she would be pitied and looked down upon by her family, she leaves her old life at the hat shop and starts on a journey through the Wastelands to look for a new life where she can live out her days in peace as an old lady. She then comes across an enchanted scarecrow with the head of a turnip, which leads her to Howl's Moving Castle. Her story is long and filled with magic, action and emotion.
The music by Joe Hisaishi follows the tradition of Studio Ghibli masterpieces with a big and beautiful orchestra enhancing the visual creations on screen. I believe that this is also Miyazaki's most artistically beautiful film. The European like city's, incredible landscapes and the remarkable castle must be seen to be believed.
Howl's Moving Castle is meticulously detailed, right down the the corners of each scene. It's a more polished film visually than most animated features and it has a story that requires you to think. This movie made me feel elated and had me looking forward to what life would bring next. Miyazaki presents us with a world of magic and possibilities in this film, and I think he did an outstanding job.
If you need more clarification on the story, may I suggest you read the marvelous novel by Diana Wynne Jones. It should explain any queries you have with the film.