Earwig and the Witch

Studios need to experiment to find their footing. “Earwig and the Witch” is one of those experiments.

“Earwig and the Witch” is the newest film from the acclaimed Studio Ghibli and it’s directed by Goro Miyazaki, who directed the 2011 Studio Ghibli film “From Up on Poppy Hill.” This is the studio’s first film to be animated entirely in 3D CGI animation. It’s based on the book of the same name by Dianne Wynne Jones, who’s previous work was adapted into Ghibli’s “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

It premiered on TV in Japan last December. It received a short theatrical run in the United States and started streaming on HBO Max on Feb. 5.

“Earwig and the Witch” follows Earwig, a young girl left at an orphanage as a baby. She gets adopted by Bella Yaga, a bossy witch who sells spells, and the Mandrake, a very powerful demon-like person who doesn’t like being disturbed. Earwig becomes Bella’s servant as she tries to make them bend to her will with some help from the talking cat Thomas.

And that’s the entire plot. 

There really isn’t much that goes on in this movie, especially since it’s only 82 minutes long. The overall storyline is one of the weakest aspects of this movie, mostly because there’s not a lot of progression. Characters primarily work as they learn a little more about each other over time. There’s not much substance.

However, this film is a good time. For the most part, it’s an enjoyable film with some moments that stand out. Those moments are when the film gets a little more experimental with its visuals and amp up some of the style in the film. Despite not being their strongest film, it still has some classic Studio Ghibli charm.

Speaking of visuals, the new style of animation is weird, especially for fans of other Studio Ghibli films. At times, it looks like plastic and the animation can be a little stiff. But for this being the studio’s first film foray into 3D animation, it’s quite impressive. 

You can tell that they were trying to match some of their previous stylings and animation. For that, it’s commendable. If they decide to continue experimenting in 3D, it’ll be interesting to see where they go next.

The best part of this film is the music. The overall aesthetic is 1970’s progressive rock, with the rest of the score featuring accordions, some traditional orchestral pieces and even some southern stylings. It gives the film some much needed style and goes well with certain sequences in the movie. At the very least, give the soundtrack a listen.

Overall, the movie is a fun time. Even though there’s not a lot of substance, the film is an enjoyable watch with an excellent soundtrack. Some might be turned off by the 3D, but it’s not bad for the studio’s first time.

It’ll be interesting to see what they decide to do next. 

“Earwig and the Witch” seems like a jumping off point for Studio Ghibli. If they decide to continue experimenting in 3D, they have the potential to make something truly excellent in the medium.

At the moment, this movie isn’t Studio Ghibli’s best film. It does have problems. If anything, this is a grand experiment for the studio. Hopefully, this is the first of many steps and they continue to improve.

3/5 Torches

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