Earwig and the Witch review
When Jordi Cruyff, the son of legendary footballer Johan Cruyff played for the Netherlands, he didn’t wear the name Cruyff on the back of his shirt. He opted to just have his first name on the shirt instead, because how could he possible live up to THAT name? You might ask at this point, why am I talking about Dutch footballers in a review of a children’s cartoon? Well, I was reminded of the Cruyff’s whilst watching ‘Earwig and the Witch’, a truly dire CG animated film from Gorō Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki, the internationally renowned artist and filmmaker.
How difficult must it be for Miyazaki Jr. to make films? Burdened not only with the surname of one of Japan’s greatest ever animators (and the legacy that goes with it), but also the pressure of producing films for the studio his father founded. With those twin shadows looming over him, it’s a wonder he ever chose this profession. But, just like Jordi Cruyff, he did choose to follow in the illustrious footsteps of his much more gifted father, and will therefore have to forever bear the burden of comparison.
‘Earwig and the Witch’ marks the official return of Studio Ghibli, seven years since Miyazaki Sr. retired and the studio pulled down the shutters behind him. Following ‘Tales of Earthsea’ and ‘From Up on Poppy Hill’, this is Miyazaki’s third film for Studio Ghibli, and the company’s first full-length foray into the world of 3D computer animation. I’m sorry to say, but it is a dreadful misstep for both the filmmaker and the studio.
Based on the children’s novel by Diana Wynne Jones, the film tells the story of Earwig (voiced in the English language version by Taylor Paige Henderson), a young girl who is left at an orphanage when she is just a baby, by her witch mother. When she is 10-years old she is adopted by another witch called Bella Yaga (Vanessa Marshall) and a powerful warlock called Mandrake (Richard E. Grant).
This all feels very Studio Ghibli, and is actually a decent set up for a charming little adventure. Unfortunately, Miyazaki does nothing with it from here, choosing instead to stretch out the first act over an interminable 80 minutes, and then suddenly end the film before anything happens. It literally goes nowhere. Which I suppose could be forgiven if the film was beautiful, but it’s not.
‘Earwig and the Witch' takes everything that is good about Studio Ghibli (the stunning landscapes, gorgeous character designs, the whimsical charm), and then squeezes it out and replaces it with drab storytelling and ugliness. Lifeless backgrounds, dead-eyed, expressionless characters, uninspired design, and a script so dull it wouldn’t entertain even the most unfussy of children. It brings me absolutely zero pleasure to tell you this is the worst film Studio Ghibli has ever produced.