Growing up in an orphanage in the British countryside, Earwig has no idea that her mother had magical powers. Her life changes dramatically when a strange couple takes her in and she is forced to live with a selfish witch, discovering a world of spells and potions.
All the signs were good for Studio Ghibli’s first feature in four years. It’s adapted from a novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones, whose Howl’s Moving Castle was the source of the great Japanese animation studio’s Oscar nominated 2004 hit. The director, Gorô Miyazaki, is the son of studio founder Hayao Miyazaki. The UK voice cast includes Richard E. Grant as the demonic Mandrake. And Satoshi Takebe‘s splendid score is reminiscent of vintage prog rock. Sadly, however, this is Ghibli’s first foray into CGI, which means that its USP of gorgeous hand-drawn animation is absent. Worse still the story isn’t up to much, the result being “dispiritingly generic in both appearance and tone”, according to the Hollywood Reporter.