me to preface my review by saying that I am not a disciple
of Miyazaki. I have seen part of Spirited Away
and have a definite urge to see more, but I have seen none
of his classics in their entirety. In fact, I am an anime
neophyte. My experience with the medium pretty much begins
and ends with the fact that I've seen Akira.
I can also say that, even to someone unfamiliar with Japanese
animation, Ponyo is a visual treat that likely
defies and exceeds the expectations you may have for a Disney-sponsored
import about a magical transforming fish princess.
Ponyo was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki,
a legend in the animation world who was also behind the
1997 import Princess Mononoke and the 2002 Academy
Award winner, Spirited Away. The story of Ponyo
is based in part on the Hans Christian Andersen fable The
Little Mermaid. (Yes, the same one that Disney used to help
re-launch the animated musical.)
titular Ponyo (Noah Cyrus) is a magical fish-girl who sneaks
out of the care of her father, an underwater sorcerer voiced
by Liam Neeson, who was once human but now tends the sea
from his magical submarine. She finds her way toward land,
where she ends up stuck in a bottle after a close call with
a dredger, and is rescued by 5-year-old Sosuke (Frankie
"Bonus" Jonas), with whom she instantly falls
in love. She ends up being taken back to the sea by her
father, but not before she gains the ability to transform
completely into a human.
say more, but the structure of Ponyo lends itself
more to the mood of discovery and wonder as Ponyo learns
about humans and their world, and Susuke and his mom, Lisa
(Tina Fey), learn more about Ponyo.
The charm of Ponyo is that it is drenched in a
spirit of wonder, discovery, and general cuteness, not to
mention the high-quality animation and beautifully imaginative
imagery. Indeed the art and imagination of Ponyo
are its highlights. Miyazaki creates a world where the fantastic
and the realistic creatively, beautifully, and believably
occupy the same space.
example, early in the movie, after Sosuke evades a series
of waves (sent by Ponyo's father) that seemed to be coming
right for him after finding Ponyo, he shrugs it off with,
"That was weird." This is the first clue that
the fantastic and strange are to be accepted in this world
just as much as the mundane. From the fish-shaped water
spirits Ponyo rides to land on, to old ladies who occupy
the local senior center, everything is given equal opportunity
to be a source of wonderment and interest.
The equality in treatment between fantastic events and ordinary
events ends up being a focus of the movie, which is interesting
to look back on once you realize that you haven't been so
engrossed watching the preparation of a meal since you were
wonder-at-the-world focus can catch you off guard, as the
pace of the film is very relaxed. There is an issue that
the main characters are working to resolve, but there's
never a feeling of being in a huge rush to get to a solution.
Sure the moon is moving closer to the earth and drawing
the water level so high it's right outside the door of our
cliff-side home, but we've also got ham and instant noodles,
and that's pretty important, too.
The sole complaint about the movie would be that the ending
just fizzles out. There's no big conflict, event, or test
like what you might usually expect from an animated movie.
Instead, if you're not paying attention, you may miss exactly
how they put the order of the natural world back into shape.
I suppose this should be expected in a movie where everything
from making tea to transformative magic is treated with
the same amount of gravitas.
Despite its few flaws, Ponyo is an engaging, entertaining
movie that doesn't need to get you worked up to get you
engrossed. It's slow pace centered on discovery, wonder
and play is as engaging and calming as a good aquarium.
It's heavy on imagination and creativity and is a beautifully
rendered piece of animation.
adult, I believe that there is a different standard that
applies to movies for children. Here the question should
be: Would I be upset if my son wanted to watch this movie
every single day? I can confidently say that I would not
mind watching part of this movie every day. This is a quality
piece of art that deserves to beat the crap out of G-Force,
so grab your kids, and take them to Ponyo, something
that will have them entertained and giggling without the
use of the word "hizzok".