Film review by: Witney Seibold


This thing I like best about Hayao Miyazaki’s children is how autonomous they are. Their parents are never evil or irresponsible people, but Miyazaki understands, like all good authors of childrens’ fiction, that children, when left to their own devices, can learn about the world and discover new things just fine on their own.

Miyazaki is the current master of animated feature films, having made such masterpieces as “Princess Mononoke,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” and “Spirited Away.” His films all deal with strong young people, usually girls, discovering a new facet of the world, and finding some vital balance between the activities of man, and the effect they have on the environment around them.

“Ponyo” is another glorious and beautiful masterpiece. While it plays more to the kiddie-friendly audiences than some of his “heavier” films, “Ponyo” still contains all his usual themes, strong children, and endlessly imaginative images that Miyazaki became famous for. I encourage you to see “Ponyo.”

The story: Little 5-year-old Sosuke (Frankie Jonas in the American version) has rescued a rogue goldfish from the ocean. He names it Ponyo. Ponyo (Noah Cyrus) is an unusual goldfish, in that she has a human head, but no one seem to note this. She is, it turns out, the escaped 5-year-old daughter of an undersea dwelling wizard (Liam Neeson), who uses special elixirs to keep the amount of life in the ocean in balance. He hates humans (“they treat our home like their own black souls” yeah, subtle), and panics when he notices that his daughter is missing.

Little Ponyo is eventually recaptured, but she has already fallen in love with Sosuke, and wants desperately to be human. She has enough magic in her, that she is able to make this happen, but in escaping her father a second time, accidentally unleashes a tsunami of Biblical proportions. Seeing as they’re only 5 years old, thugh, our two young heroes take it all in stride.

There is an unlimited bounty of squirming, Cambrian sea life in this film. Each is hand-drawn, and moves in a lovely, animal fashion. Watching sea-life swimming amongst the flooded highways of an underwater town is dreamlike and endlessly imaginative. The sequence of Ponyo running atop a living tsunami reminds us of what animation is capable of, and we need not be so quick to embrace the soulless CGI kajiggers we get every summer.

Ponyo 2

I will allow you to discover the cuteness, the innocence, the glory, and the imagination of Miyazaki yourself. See “Ponyo” in a theater if you can.

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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