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Ponyo (2009)

September 6, 2009

8/10 Freaky Fish

Saw this by myself…on a Thursday night…in my work clothes…in a theater that may or may not have been host to a six-year-old girl’s birthday party. Talk about one killer social life.

Ponyo is about a magical, human-faced, red “goldfish” that swims away from home, gets rescued by a little kid, falls in love with the kid, gets taken back home by her father and, since she’s magic, goes hellbent about becoming human.

Sound familiar? Indeed. Ponyo is in fact a loose remake of The Little Mermaid, only it’s not a musical and it’s not total cornball kiddie crap. Alright, maybe that’s a little harsh, but this is way better. Wouldn’t be surprised if a number of people stopped reading this review a few sentences ago, but the rest of you out there, give yourselves a pat on the back. You guys are alright.

Now, I’m not that big of a fan of The Little Mermaid, but I am a big fan of Ponyo‘s director, Hayao Miyazaki,  the guy behind Princess Mononoke and Spirit Away – two absolutely fantastic movies, the latter of which won a freakin’ Oscar. Still, not sure how to pronounce his first name, but he’s an incredible storyteller with one vivid imagination. Dude’s got skills to pay the bills.

But like I said, it’s a loose remake. The main premise is there, but the script is far more human than it is fantastic. In terms of story, everything’s been simplified on a dramatic and emotional scale. There’s no Ursula, there’s actually no main villain at all, there’s no singing fish, it’s not formulaic, and despite all the scenes involving magic, there’s something very believable about the story. It’s just a wonderful little story about two kids that are head-over-heels for each other and transformative power of true love. I too realize that I’m sounding pretty cheesy right now, but whatever, there are a lot of non-animated movies out there that could afford to be as genuine as Ponyo.

There’s also an absolute mess of famous people doing the voice acting in this movie. Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, Noah Cyrus (apparently she exists), and Frankie Jonas (apparently he exists, too). Might not make much of a difference, but an impressive cast all the same. That’s like a Shrek cast.

But the main selling point of Ponyo is the freakin’ stunning animation that’s second to none. Miyazaki’s movies have always been nothing short of gorgeous thanks to the combo of having a truly unique artistic style and the imagination of a first-grader on acid, and the beauty of Ponyo is that it clearly takes full advantage of both things. The colors, the imagery, the characters – all beautiful, all have to be seen to be fully appreciated. 

It might not be Miyazaki’s best movie, and I’m not too sure that I’ve actually converted anyone into wanting to go see this, but if you’re looking to be the cool parent/older sibling/middle-school date, you could do a lot worse than going to see Ponyo. I could go on trying to defend my wanting to see this movie, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve given it a chance. After all, it’s kinda nice to see kids movies once in a while; being a kid was sweet.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2010 4:17 pm

    Big fan of Studio Ghibli myself, have you ever seen Grave of the Fireflies? Not a Miyazaki one but very good. Must watch a few more, their animation really is beautiful…

    • January 7, 2010 4:31 pm

      It’s been a good while since I saw Fireflies, but what a freakin’ powerhouse that was. Been meaning to watch it again for a while now, it’s right up there with Princess Mononoke in my book (which I also need to revisit). Everything Miyazaki puts out is gold, man. GOLD I TELL YOU!

  2. Frances J permalink
    March 19, 2012 4:39 pm

    Loved this movie! Beautiful animation and the colouring and movement in the ‘Ponyo running along the sea to catch up with the car’ scene was my favorite part. I love Studio Ghibli films! Sprited Away is my all time favorite movie. With Ponyo I can just sit back and relax knowing I will be transported to a world with beautiful surrounding, cute kids and warming message.


    • March 22, 2012 5:57 pm

      I LOVED that scene. So Miyazaki, can’t get enough of it when his characters do that. And I really need to see Spirited Away again, been way too long, but it’s one of the greats alright.

      Btw, way to have an Ocarina of Time email address. That’s where it’s at.

      • Frances J permalink
        March 26, 2012 5:38 pm

        😀 You know it!

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