It follows an orphan girl, Earwig, who is adopted by a witch and comes home to a spooky house filled with mystery and magic.
Cast: Taylor Henderson, Vanessa Marshall, Richard E. Grant, Logan Hannan
Directors: Gorô Miyazaki
Writers: Keiko Niwa (screenplay by), Emi Gunji (screenplay by), Hayao Miyazaki (developed by), Diana Wynne Jones (based on the novel by)
Its been five years since Studio Ghibli’s last feature film. More importantly, it’s been twenty-eight years since their previous straight-to-tv production, which was Ocean Waves. I mention this because Studio Ghibli diehards are chasing the next big movie from the Japanese animation studio — this is not that film. Earwig and the Witch is instead an experimental film, on an obvious budget and again, was made for TV. That said, it’s a Ghibli film! And it was nice to see that big Totoro logo up on the big screen again.
Most abrasive to Studio Ghibli fans will be the CG animation. A quality the animation studio has previously been adamantly against using. The quality of animation here is plainly put, just fine. It’s a TV movie, and you get precisely what that entails.
Earwig and the Witch begins with this somewhat exciting scene of red-haired women out-maneuvering a persuing vehicle. The scene ends with the women dropping off a small baby at an orphanage with a note saying that she’ll be back when she escapes the twelve other witches. Exciting stuff! Except, the movie isn’t really about magic — although it has plenty — nor is it about secret covens in England. It’s nothing like Harry Potter and doesn’t feature the child discovering their heritage to join the wizarding world some years later. It’s merely about that small baby, that small girl and the magical family that adopts her. This is Earwig and the Witch’s biggest fault. Because as good as that opening scene is, it sets the wrong tone and will leave you more annoyed when the credits start rolling without giving you a lick of an answer for the questions the film presents in the opening minutes.
Some years later, Earwig, who’s been renamed ‘Erica Wig’ by the children’s home, is quite merrily living her best life. She loves shepherd’s pie made for lunch and has a best friend in another orphan named Custard. Against her best wishes and attempts to not be, Eric is adopted by what turns out to a be Witch, Bella Yaga (Vanessa Marshall), and a warlock, The Mandrake (Richard E. Grant). Taking Erica into their home, she’s put to work as a more-or-less un-paid child labour helping Bella Yaga make spells. And not even exciting spells; there are potions to make dogs win dog shows, grow bigger fruit and other mundane human wishes. So Erica gets to work on finding a way to learn magic herself and possibly find a way to escape her new prison.