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Released: 2008

Genre: Kids & Family

Runtime: 1 hr 40 min

MPAA Rating: G

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas, Kurt Knutsson, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, Jennessa Rose, Lily Tomlin, Betty White

In this animated family film, a little boy saves a fish girl who wants to become human. From master animator Hayao Miyazaki.

Simply told, magisterially animated.

Review by: MiamiMovieCritic

Added: 8 years ago

If you’ve never seen a Hayao Miyazaki film, then now is a good a time to start. Seeing this master animator’s work on the big screen is one of those rare opportunities in life, like watching a meteor shower. His images have the power and beauty to blow you right out of your seat.

His latest, Ponyo, is made for children, but that doesn’t mean everyone else in the theater can’t enjoy it. Consider this simply told, magisterially animated movie a delectable appetizer before you’re ready to feast on the full course meals of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

The G-rated picture may remind some viewers of The Little Mermaid. (Appropriately enough, the dubbed U.S. theatrical cut is being handled by the folks at Disney.) It’s about a little boy named Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas, kid brother of those ubiquitous Jonas Brothers) who rescues a goldfish trapped in a jar, takes her home and names her Ponyo. Turns out Ponyo can talk, and when she does she sounds like Noah Cyrus, sister of Alaska Nebraska… or Hannah Montana… or whoever. When Ponyo licks a wound on Sosuke’s hand, she becomes magically human, which causes a tsunami to flood Sosuke’s town and the moon to fall out of its orbit. Whoops!

The story might sound familiar, but you’ve never seen anything quite like Ponyo. It takes a few moments to settle into the film’s glacial, hand-draw, pre-digital vibe, but once you get there, you’re completely under Miyazaki’s spell. Ponyo’s father (formidably voiced by Liam Neeson) is a dapper gent with flowing red hair, a pink tie and a blue-and-white striped coat. Her mother (Cate Blanchett) is a sea goddess who turns the ocean the color of a sunset. When the waves of the tsunami hit, they look like giant fish with eyes. And when the ocean reaches Sosuke’s doorstep, he and Ponyo duck their heads underwater, where sea creatures are swirling nearby. There are sights and sounds in this movie that you’ll never forget.

The theater I saw Ponyo in was also playing G-Force and Aliens in the Attic. It’s shocking to see a family film that isn’t the product of some cynical corporate strategy to make your kids go brain dead. Ponyo may just be a simple story of a fish, but its artistry and sense of humanity left this viewer in tears.