“Earwig and The Witch” is Studio Ghibli’s first 3D animated film. The new format caused longtime fans to be divided, but the studio assured fans that this story and the animation are made for each other. As a long time Studio Ghibli fan (I have a Totoro tattoo) I went into this film with an open mind.
Warning: This review has spoilers
At its core, Earwig and The Witch is a film about what constitutes a family and what constitutes a home. Earwig, later named Erica Wigg, was left at an orphanage as a baby with a note. The note is from her mom, and it states that she is being chased by witches and it’s not safe for Earwig to be with her. This note is one of many seemingly important elements to the plot, but it later amounts to nothing.
Erica grows up in the orphanage happy! She loves her life there; the staff sees her as a little angel and treats her as such. Though this is partly through manipulation. Erica always gets what she wants and never dreams of being adopted.
But this is a movie and Erica gets picked by a “foster family.” That family includes the titles “witch” and a tall man known as the Mandrake. They don’t want her to complete their family, they need someone to help with house chores and their spell business.
Erica, now “Girl,” thinks she can charm them like she does everyone else. Unfortunately, she can’t. So, now she has to work. Cut to many scenes of Earwig failing at manual labor, displeasing her new family, complaining how she hates her new home, and plotting her escape.
These scenes are ¾ of the movie. And that’s the biggest problem with the film. What could be a great lesson about the family we choose and identity culminates to nothing more than animated shorts pieced together.
Don’t get me wrong, the film is visually stunning and very cute, but all Ghibli films are! That’s what we expect, but it’s the stories that make them cult favorites. It’s the connection you feel towards the characters. The small details that make it all feel so real. “Earwig and The Witch” fails to do those things.
The film kept eluding to an ending that will make it all worth it. Earwig will know who her mom is and how her new family connects to that. Earwig does but the audience never does and never will. Because the ending to this film is frankly similar to the ending of “The Little Things.” No answers and even more questions. There is no closure, there is no connection, and there is none of the magic fans are used to.
“Earwig and The Witch” is what happens when you have all the ingredients to make a delicious cake but decide not to follow the award-winning recipe.
I give it a D+
Too much-wasted potential with none of the payoffs.
What did you think of “Earwig and the Witch”? How does it compare to your favorite Ghibli film? Give us your feedback in the comments and online.
You can watch “Earwig and the Witch” on HBO Max.