Review: Ponyo

Gake no ue no Ponyo | Hayao Miyazaki, 2009

Although I’m fairly new to Hayao Miyazaki’s filmography, I can’t help but love his work. My first encounter with his movies was about two years ago when I was browsing through my local library’s DVD section and I saw that they had Princess Mononoke. I had heard of it, but I never though about watching it. So, that same night I watched it and i was blown away. Not only was the animation beautiful and the story surprisingly deep, but the way the story was told was all kinds of amazing. Since then I have watched Spirited Away, My Neighborgh Totoro, and, the subject of this review, Ponyo, and I loved them all.

Ponyo, inspired by the story of “The Little Mermaid”, tells the story of a gold fish whose father is a weird underwater scientist and her mother is a goddess of the sea. One day, the fish escapes to experience life, and after an ordeal with a net, she ends up with Sosuke, a 5-year-old boy who lives with his mom in a cliff by the sea. Sosuke decides to adopt her and names her Ponyo. However, her escape could destroy the balance of nature so her dad sets out to get her. Once he does, she decides that she wants to be a human and be together with Sosuke forever. She escapes again, this time bringing with her a tsunami that puts the whole town underwater, and now Sosuke and Ponyo must set out to find his mom, while her parents have something planned for the two of them.

The only problem, if you can call it that, that I had with the movie was that the story is not quite as deep as the other three Miyazaki films that I have seen.While it does have a moral about taking care of the planet, overall it is just about love with an odyssey thrown in there. It is obvious that he was trying to please a younger demographic, but it is deep enough to get them involved with the movie without confusing them. With that said, I found it as involving as the other films by Miyazaki that I had seen.

The animation used here is unlike any I had seen before. While the moving characters are animated like any other, the backgrounds have a pencil painting look to them that just feels right for the story. Everything else is also great. I watched the dubbed version because that is the one that automatically plays when you watched it, and I must say that I liked it. Disney has always been great about finding the perfect people to play Miyazaki’s characters, and then he approves them, so that his vision is not altered. Tina Fey, Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Liam Neeson, Betty White, Cloris Leechman, Lilly Tomlin, and Cate Blanchett do exceptional work here, especially Blanchett who is so good with a few lines of dialogue that she has.

Ponyo is one of the most delightful and best movies of the year. It is fun, charming, and something to watch with just about anybody no matter their age. With this movie, Hayao Miyazaki continued to show he is the animator that all other animators aspire to be.

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