I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my love for Studio Ghibli and the works of acclaimed artist and director Hayao Miyazaki here on the blog before. If not, it’s never a moment too soon to start. Hubby and I even cosplayed as No Face from the Academy Award winning movie, Spirited Away. For pics, head over to that post.
That said, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is not from Studio Ghibli. But, ask any fan of the studio and they’ll tell you that the most beloved elements of Ghibli are present from the gorgeous art style, the sweet orchestral scores, and the weirdness of the creatures and characters.
This is not by chance. The director of Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, worked as an animator on many of Ghibli’s best loved films including Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo.
Mary, a girl of perhaps twelve or thirteen, is sent to the beautiful flower filled countryside to live with her grandma while her parents relocate for work. She feels out of place and that she can’t do anything right. One day she spots a cat and follows it into the nearby forest where she finds a rare fly-by-night flower.
This flower is magical and allows whoever crushes its blossom to fly on a broomstick. Mary finds this out by accident and the broomstick whisks her away to Endor College, a school of magic where all of Mary’s many wants and wishes could quite possibly come true.
But, as all stories go, Endor College harbors a dark secret. Terrible things are happening behind the scenes and Mary finds herself right in the middle of it. She must risk everything to try to set it right and save both herself and her new found friend.
Compared to many of Miyazaki’s works, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is far less weird. Some of the usual environmental themes still come through, in this case, a lesson on why one shouldn’t meddle with nature or create unnatural creatures. But, there’s no heavy handed harping about the evils of pollution or man’s tendency to destroy – which is a nice change.
Mary herself is actually a little irritating. They paint her character as unnaturally clumsy and awkward and not particularly kind to the neighbor boy who, compared to her, seems responsible and good natured. The story is meant to teach her that there is a world of things to care for and she should stop being so self conscious, and it succeeds.
Like I said before, even if you aren’t crazy about the story, the art style and music are fabulous and make up for a lot of the weirdness found in the story. My kids loved the movie and I thought it was excellent.
The movie kicks off on a fairly intense scene where a young girl is desperately trying to escape from creepy cyclops creatures amidst explosions and peril. My 8 year old was fine with it, but he’s generally okay with reasonable amounts of action and tension. If your little one is sensitive to dangerous situations and creepy images, then this might be too much.
Other than that, the movie is squeaky clean. No offensive language, no drinking or smoking, and no romantic elements. In addition, there are lots of good role models and positive messages about accepting yourself the way you are
I give Mary and the Witch’s Flower 4/5 stars for being fantastic but still a touch weird.
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