Based on The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, a strange flower grants a girl magic powers.
In the vein of Harry Potter and even as far back as Alice in Wonderland comes Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower, based on the book by Mary Stewart. Yonebayashi’s third directorial effort comes with a good deal of assurance and imagination, and his confidence as a director seems to blossom. After years of working with Studio Ghibli and under masterclass filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki, his latest film proves a wonderful entry into the Gkids studio film series.
Instead of down the rabbit hole, we travel high above the clouds with Mary (voiced precociously by Ruby Barnhill), an ordinary English girl living out in the country, after she stumbles upon the Witch’s Flower, a floweret with a fantastical sapphire glow. It brings to life a magical broom and a grumpy, yet all-knowing pair of cats called Tibb and Gibb and ultimately leads to her to a mysterious college in the clouds. From the standpoint of art direction and utter imagination, Mary stands firmly on its own two feet. The college, a sort of castle in the sky harboring magical minds from around the world, features some of the most awe-inspiring images anyone will see in the theaters.
Narratively, Yonebayashi seems so intent on telling such a good story that the pacing falls to the wayside. Around the middle of the film, the director really takes his time, so much that too-younger viewers might verge on boredom. It seems to be the result of not wanting to tell a kids’ story, but instead something that can be accessed by all ages. It is a well-intentioned, if somewhat lacking choice.
All the same, Mary glows as a film meant to pique inspiration for the creatively-minded, and Mary herself is such an upstanding character that the film is altogether inspiring. Dove is proud to award the film with approval for Ages 12+.