Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)

It has taken me a while to finally muster up the will to watch “Earwig and the Witch,” since, like most Studio Ghibli fans, I found the trailer to be lackluster. However, even though I started streaming the film with a lot of bias in mind, the first half was surprisingly enjoyable!

Based on the children’s novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, the 2020 animated movie directed by Goro Miyazaki begins with a weird blue-haired witch leaving a baby named Earwig in front of an orphanage. Consequently, little Earwig grows into a spunky little troublemaker who is everybody’s favorite and loves her life at the orphanage. But when she is adopted by a mean intimidating witch-wizard couple Bella Yaga and Mr Jenkins, Earwig does her best to win them over and learn some magic herself.

The computer generated animation obviously lacks the charm and warmth of the usual Studio Ghibli creations, but it’s decent enough for a children’s film. I really enjoyed watching one of the initial scenes of Earwig and her friends running around in a cemetery dressed up like ghosts. It reminded me of my boarding school days, where the favorite pastime for us kids was to swap scary tales and stir up trouble. However, a lot of scenes were too plastic and plain, like an AI has generated all of it. It’s Earwig’s patient personality that kept me invested in the tale, she isn’t the usual tantrum throwing little brat who is always up to no good. While she does indulge in some mischievous behavior, she also works hard for Bella Yaga, hoping to learn some tricks of the trade in return.

The second-half of the film moves far too slowly, with little progress in Earwig’s adventures with magic, although she does start to like Bella Yaga and Mr Jenkins a little. A few brief flashbacks that were inserted in the runtime to give some insights into the child’s family history, but those scenes leave viewers with far more questions than answers. For example, Earwig’s mother is shown to be a lead vocalist in a band, but she suddenly stops playing and then disappears. Adult viewers can still guess what might have happened with the young woman, but since it’s targeted at pre-teen viewers, the plot can be very confusing for kids. Music is a big theme in the story, however the background score was a letdown. All the songs are all extremely generic, forgettable and sound like they are from a wannabe cover band.

The most disappointing about “Earwig and the Witch” is that is just suddenly and abruptly ends, leaving viewers feeling like they’ve only seen half the story. What happened to Earwig’s mother? We don’t really get to know. Maybe Goro Miyazaki and team were hoping to make a sequel if “Earwig and the Witch” did well, which is why they didn’t give viewers a concrete ending and that’s a gamble that really did not pay off. I would actually watch a sequel, if one ever gets made in the future, because “Earwig and the Witch” does have some fun characters, an endearing protagonist, and even with an interesting story, it’s just not executed too well.

Rating: 6 on 10. You can stream the film on Netflix.