Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett
Ponyo is a story about a goldfish named Ponyo (Cyrus), who wants to be a human girl in order to be with her true love, a little boy named Sauske (Jonas). Luckily for her, she's also the daughter of a powerful sea wizard (Neeson) and has inherited some of his magic.
Struggling to break free of her father's over protective coddling, she manages to unleash the awesome power of the untamed sea. But Miyazaki's latest never gets too big or over-dramatic, even though there's big dramatic stuff going on - it references Wagner's Ring Cycle a lot, and you don't get more big and dramatic than Wagner - but Suaske and Ponyo are both 5 year olds and their focuses are more on exploring, or finding out if there's ham for dinner.
This reviewer should mention at this point that he saw the film in Japanese with subtitles by accident because he happened to walk into the only cinema in London not showing the dubbed version. They probably spent millions of dollars on that dub, hiring the likes of Cate Blachett, Liam Neeson and Matt Damon, as well as giving the lead roles to Disney scions Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas. I can only assume that the translation team did as good a job as they have done in every other Ghibli film that's been exported; they have a good record, so I have no fear that they've done a good and faithful job of it.
Artistically, Ponyo has a much simpler, more childish style (the backgrounds look like they're done with colouring pencils) that marks it out from the recent crop of fantasy epics that Studio Ghibli have been producing for the last decade. In fact, it feels a lot like the 1988 classic, My Neighbor Totoro. No surprise, then, that it marks the return of Hayao Miyazaki in his role as writer/director with an original screenplay, as opposed to an adaptation. It's clear from the opening scene that this is a film with a single, incredible imagination leading the project. What Ponyo is, really, is a tall tale recounted to you by a singular story teller; what it isn't is Finding Ponyo, or Ponyo Story 3, or Ponyup.
Having Miyazaki in total control means that he can do things like start naming extinct species of fish. Why? Because Miyazaki thinks that extinct fish are interesting, and that children like things that are interesting. This isn't what happens when you get half the studio round a big table and hammer out every scene and plot point in fine detail until everything runs like clockwork. Yes, the story is somewhat loose and rambling, but to ask it to be tighter and more efficient would be to miss the essential magic that is at the heart of a film like Ponyo – the wonder and majesty of being five, and using your imagination.
Miyazaki is a wizard, and he uses the old magics – imagination, wonder and joy.
- hand drawn
- hans christian anderson
- hayao miyazaki
- liam neeson
- little mermaid