Monday, August 17, 2009

Review - Ponyo

A special little goldfish swims to the surface only to find herself stuck in a jar and washed up on to the shore. A 5 year old boy named Sosuke, finds and helps the goldfish out of the jar. He names her Ponyo and they quickly develop a strong bond and friendship. The little goldfish is however a princess of the sea and her father, a magician named Fujimoto, desperately wants her back. After re-capturing his daughter, Ponyo tells her father she wants to be human. Ponyo uses her father's magic to will herself into a human, but in the process, she upsets the balance of the sea bringing a deadly imbalance to the world. Ponyo races back to her new friend Sosuke, while her father uses the ocean's waves to find his daughter. Sosuke and Ponyo set out on an adventure in hopes of returning the the balance in the world and fulfilling Ponyo's dreams of becoming a real human.

"Ponyo" is yet another delightful and magical tale from Hayao Miyazaki that reminds us just how beautiful traditional animation can be. The story is a close resemblance to the fairy tale The Little Mermaid, only having Miyazaki's spin on it for the better. "Ponyo" is richly animated and thoroughly heart warming. The friendship that is developed between Ponyo and Sosuke is sweet and provides consistent humor in the enchanted Miyazaki tale. Overall "Ponyo" is a great adventure for the whole family.

As in any Hayao Miyazaki film, the characters are well written, embraceable and wonderfully animated. The main character Ponyo is precious. She never stops, and all the way through she left me with a smile on my face. She reminded me of my own 2-year-old daughter and her endless interest in new things. That wide-eyed mysticism that children have in new things and exploring them. Miyazaki captures this perfectly through both Ponyo and her best friend Sosuke.

Sosuke represents the true friend, one that will do anything to help the one's he loves. Sosuke's relationship with his mother Lisa and best friend Ponyo are great and the scenes shared between the three are quite touching. Souske and Ponyo's scenes make the friendship film cheerful and easily remind us of our early childhood friends and the adventures we could create. I especially liked the scenes shared between Ponyo and Sosuke when they learned from one another along there adventure. Souske teaches Ponyo about humans, while Ponyo teaches Souske about sea life. The lessons learned are simple in nature, but the moments shared are magical.

Having seen both the U.S. version and the original Japanese versions I can appreciate both voice casts. Each had there own spin to the movie. Only one of the voice actors that really made a difference in the English version release was Liam Neeson as Fujimoto, Ponyo's father. In the Japanese edition, Jôji Tokoro is abrasive as Fujimoto, but here in the English version Neeson's fatherly voice wears through wonderfully. Fujimoto is an outstanding character in "Ponyo" and I love all the spells he uses to try and get his daughter Ponyo back with him. He is delightfully comical while remaining mysterious as any good magician would be.

The animation throughout "Ponyo" is stunning. Miyazaki's vision has always impressed and here in a story that involves all of the creatures of the sea, Miyazaki flourishes. All of the various sea life is vividly drawn, but the animation done on the monstrous waves is absolutely breath-taking. Time and time again while watching "Ponyo" I found myself completely lost in the animation, only to later ask why don't we have more traditional animation anymore. I miss it and Miyazaki's most recent film only reminded me further.

Lastly, "Ponyo" is a wonderful animated tale that is uplifting for the whole family. It might be a little too long at 100 minutes, for younger kids in the theater, but children over 5 should be enthralled all the way through. Parents will also enjoy the story and it's elevating imagination within Miyazaki's enchanted tale. "Ponyo" is definitely everything I expected and more from the great mind of Hayao Miyazaki.