Based on Mary Stewart’s classic children’s book “The Little Broomstick,” we meet frizzy haired Mary, a young girl sent to live with her great aunt Charlotte by her parents as they prepare to move. Overcome by boredom, she ventures out in to the wilderness and follows a mysterious black cat in to the nearby forest. There she finds an old broomstick embedded in an old tree, as well as a mysterious glowing flower called the “Fly-by-Night.” The influences of Studio Ghibli are all over the place in Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s animated adventure “Mary and the Witch’s Flower.” From “Whisper of the Heart,” “Spirited Away,” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” there are so many nods and winks to the aforementioned properties that it becomes kind of a treat to see it all unfold.
“Mary and the Witch’s Flower” is also much like a Ghibli film in that is chronicles the adventure of a small but spunky heroine in a big scary world, facing off against obstacles that reflect potential real life obstacles down the road. While much of what Hiromasa Yonebayashi creates is invocative of Hayao Miyazaki, thankfully “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” also sports its own unique energy and sense of wonder. The world is vividly created to where it’s always promising a new danger at every corner, but you can’t help but gasp. The animation helps realize the world from the original novel, with some of the scenes just breathing life and beauty. One scene in particular involving a grouping of leaves left me just shocked with its realism and sense of color.
Mary is an engaging super heroine who has to rely much more on her wits than her magic right to the very end. When she realizes she has an aptitude for magic and could possibly be an amazing witch, she slowly learns that magic also has an intoxicating effect that could rot its user from the inside out, which sends her on a journey of exploring the concept of magic and if she wants it in her life. If I had one complaint is that Mary and her friend Peter’s relationship is much too under developed. There’s never enough time to establish their friendship, thus her urgency to help him when he’s caught in the middle of Mary’s turmoil, feels forced. That said, “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” is a sweet, entertaining, often enchanting animated adventure with interesting lessons about the price of lying, and the responsibility of great power.
In Select Theaters January 19th from GKids; Special Fathom Events Premiere Screening January 18th