This film has got to be one of the most cutest films I have ever had the pleasure of watching.
A story where Miyazaki enables us to watch the love of two young people without making it cheesy or uncomfortable is one of the reason why he is one of the greatest animation filmmakers, period!
I promise to try and not make this review another homage to Miyazaki as I know due to my undying love for his work, I sometimes get carried away.
There is a word to describe “Ponyo,” and that word is magical. This variation on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, is focused almost solely on Ponyo and Sosuke. There is nothing ghoulish about this as the feature tells a story both simple and profound.
Sosuke, a 5-year-old boy who lives in a house on a seaside cliff, finds a small goldfish trapped in a jar on the beach. This fish he later names Ponyo (though her birth name is Brunhilde). While attempting to free her, he accidently cuts his finger on the glass, and to thank him she licks the wound on his finger which then magically heals. By tasting forbidden human blood and discovering her love for ham, we learn, Ponyo gains the ability to transform between fish and human. After vowing to always look after her, this ignites their friendship and they inevitably fall into baby love.
Sosuke (voice of Frankie Jonas, younger brother of the Jonas Brothers) protects Ponyo (Noah Cyrus, Miley’s younger sister) in a pail until arms and legs pop excitedly from her body and she becomes a little girl who begins to speak. He takes her to school and to the nursing home next door where his mother works and their bond begins to grow.
All is calm until we discover that by crossing the divide between land and sea, Ponyo has triggered ecological changes that unleash a dangerous tsunami that floods Sosuke’s village. In order for there to be balance again their love is put to the test. Before that ultimate test we see them set off on a journey on Souske’s toy boat, encountering prehistoric fish and looking down on highways and roads his mother used to drive on.
Miyazaki is a film master who continues to create animation drawn by hand, just as early Disney films were. There is a fluid, organic quality to his work that exposes the facile efficiency of CGI. Where does this genius man get his ideas from?! This is more than “artistry.” It IS art. This is sumptuous film making at its finest! Even when John Lasseter of Toy Story took the English dubbing on, he did it for love and not for money and that speaks volumes.
Don’t just take my words for it, go and watch it.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Stars: Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Betty White
Runtime: 141 mins