Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: The film follows an orphan girl, Earwig, who is adopted by a witch and comes home to a spooky house filled with mystery and magic.
Review: Studio Ghibli is to Anime what Pixar is to 3D Animation. They’ve built up a ton of good faith from fans of the medium with their iconic films such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke, just to name a few. And even though Earwig and the Witch isn’t in their traditional hand-drawn animation style, I was willing to give it a go. I had also just watched the CGI animated Lupin III: The First (from TMS Entertainment which, like Studio Ghibli, is distributed by Toho Co.) and loved it, so I figured this would be just as fun as that movie. Boy was I wrong!
Let’s start with the 5000-pound CGI elephant in the room. Goro Miyazaki, son of studio creator and anime legend Hayao Miyazaki, chose to go the 3D route with this film. And if you ask most anime fans out there they would tell you this is a huge gamble that doesn’t usually pay off. Yes, Lupin III pulled it off (and how!) but Earwig and the Witch fails to imbue the characters with any real sense of movement and life. Instead we get 3D versions of common anime-style facial expressions, which look lifeless and comical (and not in a good way).
I may have been able to look past this, but then we’re left with characters who are totally void of any real personality and, with the exception of Earwig, are only given surface-level character development. Earwig (also known as Erica) is also a bit annoying. While I liked the idea of an orphan who wasn’t wallowing in her situation but who actually enjoyed living in a group home and causing mischief with her fellow “brothers and sisters”, there’s nothing inherently memorable or likeable about the character. And she has a storyline that doesn’t bother to dig beneath the surface in any way and just leaves you feeling bored. Speaking of bored, let’s get to the biggest problem of them all — the story.
Have you ever bought a book that looked really good? You take it home, started reading it, you’re enjoying the journey it is taking you on, only to have it end on a cliffhanger with no warning whatsoever? It sucks right?! Well guess how this movie ends? Not one of the plot threads that we get here is paid off, and instead the movie ends with a “to be continued” vibe. Only thing is, there has been NO announcement or even an inkling the studio is planning on doing another part to this story!
Now I’ve read some background on this movie and its creator, and I’ve learned Earwig and the Witch is something of an allegory, comparing Goro’s relationship to his much more successful father Hayao. The character of Mandrake, who adopts Earwig but who leaves her in the care of another and locks himself away in his rooms to focus on his writing, representing what Goro may have gone through in his own childhood. The problem here is that Goro never manages to evoke the kind of emotion his father’s films did, which would make the viewer want to dig deeper than the surface.
And in the end Earwig and the Witch, while meaningful to its creator, sadly doesn’t have what it takes to be engaging or memorable, which must be a hard blow for someone with a last name that most anime fans expect excellence from.
Sommer’s Score: 3.5 out of 10
You can check out my video review of Earwig and the Witch below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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