Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ponyo Review

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Released in 2009

There is no denying the fact that Ponyo is a beautiful film. The 2D animation is hand-drawn and bursting with color and life. It is one of the most attractive artistic visions I have seen in a film this year. Nonetheless, something seemed "off" with it. It sits in a tough spotlight considering Spirited Away is a masterpiece in my eyes, one of the best animated films of the decade.

The voice talent is stellar, though. A boy named Sosuke (Frankie Jonas, brother of Jonas Brothers, ugh) meets a small goldfish with a human head on the shore by his head. Her name is Ponyo and she is voiced by Noah Cyrus, sister to Miley (double ugh). Nonetheless, there is still some great talent that overshadows the names of these two. Matt Damon and Tina Fey are the parents for Sosuke and they give the film a great personality, even if their American accent really counters the landscape. Ponyo's parents are portrayed by Liam Neeson and Cate Blanchett. Cate has a very ethereal, God-like aura while Neeson is a troubled dad with some funky hair. Neeson's character does not look like his real life self at all but he still manages to pull it off, speaking to his talent. Betty White, Cloris Leachman and Lily Tomlin all give voices to a group of elderly women who are frequently seen throughout the film. Many of their remarks are usually funny and show a big counter to the youth that is part of the two protagonists. Actually, the two young actors are fine in their respective parts but their last names are so past the saturation limit that my surprise was unfortunately mitigated.

The animation is obviously beautiful and stunning and there really is no need for description besides seeing it for yourself. The one thing that left me with a strange impression of the film was its message of love. The conflict in the film is if Sosuke will love Ponyo, even at the tender young age of five. I found this to be strange and the true meaning of love does not come to a person until much later. The fact that the whole world hung in the balance of his decision did not make anything more settling. I believe the meaning of love that this film was trying to convey was not truly a romantic form but more of a responsible, caring love. In that sense, the message was affectionate, but still odd to have such young characters as its subject. There was also a message of conservation that never really was realized or given much context in the end. Add the grating, childish song at the end credits and my impression was less than impeccable.

Despite these gripes, Ponyo is certainly a fine film. The animation is enough to warrant a watch. It is just not as transcending or ambitious as Hayao Miyazaki's other work.

Final Verdict:
3 Stars out of 5

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