Monday, August 31, 2009

Ticket Stubs: Ponyo

Hayao Miyazaki is truly a director unlike any other. His ability to create his own unique magical world is a feat worth remarking on. Ponyo is his tenth feature film and it is now one of my favorite along with My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.

For in his latest cinematic beauty, he throws the audience in right away with practically no introduction to the magical surroundings. Much like WALL-E, Miyazaki has a long wondrous stretch of story without any traditional dialog. It opens with a wizard fish man (Voiced by Liam Neeson) and a large school of goldfish, the largest fish being Ponyo. Ponyo breaks away from her father/wizard and ends up close to the shore where she meets a young human named Sosuke (Voiced by Frankie Jonas, the real fourth Jonas Brothers. Sorry, eight-year-olds I’ve lied to. It’s not me.) Ponyo ends up falling in love with Sosuke and she decides she wants to be human.

Yes you read me right. A goldfish wants to become human. In all honesty, this premise shouldn’t work. It’s rather ridiculous but Miyazaki never flinches. He never inserts any cynicism or doubt even with its central characters. Sosuke lives with his mom (Voiced by Tina Fey) and she is portrayed as a rational and responsible adult. When the plot becomes completely mythical, she accepts everything in a blink of the eye. For the plot of the movie is not the most important thing. In the same vein as abstract art, Ponyo excels because of the emotions it makes you feel. Throughout the whole movie I felt a powerful sense of joy and wonder. During one sequence, Ponyo is running atop gigantic fish amidst a thunderstorm. The hand-drawn animation is refreshing and pure, thus capturing the essence of the movie.

So there are places to nitpick. Most of them trying to figure out how the wizard dude is Ponyo’s father or there is a slightly underwhelming moment in the third act or how the song over the final credits is pretty much unbearable. but the film basically becomes critic-proof as those elements are irreverent to the inevitable pleasure you’ll receive from this film. I’m convinced that no one can achieve the sense of wonder Miyazaki accomplishes with each endeavor and that is why he is easily one of the greatest working filmmakers today.

CliffNotes Version of This Review: Miyazaki is super awesome.


  1. Great reviews as always. I like how these movie reviews don't have ratings--It encourages people to actually read the review and analyze your insights instead of just looking for the star rating or grade.

    I'm curious, how did you get involved with MovieSet?

  2. Thanks Sam. A friend of mine, Alex Kartman, pointed me towards the site. He also writes reviews for them. It's a rather nice site with cool updates.