Rated G, 101 minutes
Japanese with English subtitles (Japanese version)
Dubbed (English version)
Dazzling "Ponyo" makes for a fantastic, magical ride
Beautifully unconventional but highly magical, the new animated adventure "Ponyo" is a warm, lovely film about the power of love in an unusual form. Directed and written by legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle," the hit film was released over a year ago in Japan and now just getting a release in the States courtesy of Walt Disney, who created an English version with some recognizable voices. Whichever version you see, it shouldn't be missed.
The son of a sailor, 5-year old Sosuke lives a quiet life on an oceanside cliff with his mother Lisa. One fateful day, he finds a beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle on the beach and upon rescuing her, names her Ponyo. But she is no ordinary goldfish. The daughter of a masterful wizard and a sea goddess, Ponyo uses magic to transform herself into a young girl and quickly falls in love with Sosuke, but the sorcery she's used causes a dangerous imbalance in the world. As the moon steadily draws nearer to the earth and Ponyo's father sends mighty waves to locate his daughter, the two children embark on a unique adventure to save the world and help Ponyo's become human.
Miyazaki's "Ponyo" is one of the most original, thoughtful and colorful animated films seen in the U.S. this year, and is a must-see for those enjoy a remarkably fervent story and especially recommended for Japanese anime-enthusiasts. Miyazaki's films are equivalent to Pixar in original storytelling and striking visuals, though the fantasy-driven "Ponyo," has a completely unique style and palette. Richly drawn and warmly told, its fish-out-of-water story borders on the overly cutesy at times and Miyazaki has explored the fantasy world many times before, but the inviting colors and shapes will instantly draw young and old in.
"Ponyo" is also filled with Miyazaki's trademark bizarre, often odd touches, yet that is also the appeal of his films. The underwater world of creatures small and large, some of them with faces, some of them with powers, not to mention an array of uniquely styled characters. Some scenes are fascinating (and often amusing) to watch, especially Ponyo's transformation to human and anytime Ponyo's father comes looking for her (the way in which he treads the water and creates waves is fun). Award-winning Japanese musician Joe Hisaishi's wonderful orchestra score is also a highlight and adds considerable bounce to the film.
"Ponyo" is leisurely paced, and Ponyo and Sosuke play a lot considering the importance of Ponyo's place in her world and ours, but it's all enjoyable fun. Miyazaki has created another great animated film that will surely be a classic in years to come and you'll also be humming the catchy title tune sung at the end ("Ponyo, Ponyo, tiny little fish..."). By the way, the subtitled Japanese version of "Ponyo" is preferable to the English version, which features a host of famous actors voices dubbed in to attract a larger audience.