Lut and I did see this movie on Wednesday, and I enjoyed it a lot. But I do have mixed feelings about recommending it.
As I said before we went, I am a huge fan of Ms. Jones's writing and of this book in particular. The movie diverges wildly from the plot of the novel. This is not, in itself, a bad thing. One of the strange aspects of film is that Hollywood keeps making movies out of 100,000 word books when a movie really can't cover more than 25,000 words or so of text. Inevitably, changes are made.
The film does have delightful and engaging characters; not quite the same as the ones from the book, but similar enough to make me squeal in delight when Howl first shows up on camera. They're a lot of fun to watch and to listen to, and this is the main pleasure of the film.
The animation quality wasn't as high as in "Spirited Away" -- not that it was badly-animated or poor quality, it just wasn't as visually impressive.
But the biggest problem with the film is one endemic to much of fantasy and anime. There is magic in the setting, and the viewer isn't given enough information about the way magic works up front for the events of the movie to appear logical. Even some non-magical events are never adequately explained by the movie. The plot hangs together much better in the book; there, at the end, the reader can look back and say, "yeah, in light of A, B and C that were established early on, events E and F make sense." In the film, you get events F and Z and you just have to accept that this is the way the world works. "It's magic!"
So that annoyed me, but not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the film. I expect I will see it again on DVD, possibly even buy it. I definitely gotta read the book again.
In fact, I gotta go buy the book. I've read it twice, but both times I checked it out from the library. I went to Barnes and Noble immediately after seeing the film to buy a copy, but -- in a testament to the lack of promotion and support for the film -- they didn't have it in stock, and the woman at the counter told me it wasn't in stock at any other area stores, either. (Of course, she also told me the paperback edition was out of print, while both Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com are selling it, so perhaps she's wrong about other stores not having it, too.)