Director: Gorō Miyazaki
Starring: (English Voice Actors) Taylor Paige Henderson, Vanessa Marshall and Richard E. Grant
Earwig and the Witch
It’s been over half a decade since we last had a Studio Ghibli film and there is a lot to live up to. Studio Ghibli is known for high quality animation and story, with Spirited Away still being the only non-English language animated film to win the Oscar for best animated picture. Alongside Spirited Away is a whole list of amazing animated films from the studio, most notably from directors Hayoa Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
The studio is finally back with Hayao’s son, Gorō Miyazaki directing his third film for Studio ghibli, Earwig and the Witch. Notably the first completely 3D animation film from Studio Ghibli, who have always stuck to traditional hand-drawn animation for the most part.
While there is still some of the heart of a Ghibli film in Earwig, for the most part it falls flat. The animation, while pretty in places, especially in the backgrounds, isn’t spectacular. The character models, especially their faces look lifeless and feel off. It’s not Pixar quality and from Studio Ghibli you expect a very high quality and something close to Pixar, which this falls short on. It’s not the worst animation you will ever see, but there is nothing about it that leaves an impression.
Earwig is title character of the film, who is left by her mother at a children’s home. The mother is a witch who has angered the other 12 witches in her coven. The head of the home renames her Erica Wigg. We then follow her growing up and trying to avoid adoption with her best friend Custard. That way of life comes to an end when she is adopted by a witch and ends up becoming essentially her slave. Erica starts to look for ways to escape her new home, and uncover the mystery of her new adoptive parents.
The best part of the film is the rock inspired score. A band also named Earwig is interwoven into the plot, and the film is accompanied by high energy rockish music that gives the film a much needed boost of life. It’s by far the best part of the film. The opening and closing piece of music, featuring lyrics written by Goro Miyazaki, are really enjoyable and are standout parts of the film.
The worst part of the film is the pacing. It’s quiet short at less than 90 minutes. For the most part, it feels like other Ghibli films, building slowly with character development and world building. Once you get used to the animation style it does draw you in. And then with about 5 minutes left it all speeds up and then just ends. It feels like you are missing at least half an hour of story. There are so many unanswered questions, and to really smack you in the face the credits are joined with traditionally drawn story boards showing what happens next, showing how nice the characters could have looked if they didn’t take a 3D style. In the films defence, the book it is based on also leaves a lot of unanswered questions and feels like it ends abruptly.
Earwig and the Witch is a messy film, with poor animation and a bad story that does not reward you for watching. The music is fantastic, but that’s the strongest positive about the film. This is the first Studio Ghibli film that really fails at being a must see. It’s just not worth the time.