Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki) 2008

Ponyo is about a magical fish who escapes from her sea wizard father (voiced by Liam Neeson).  The fish, later named Ponyo, is found and befriended by a small boy.  The boy is living with his mother on a seaside town and his father is a captain of a fishing vessel who is out for long stretches at a time.

Those of you that know me know I have a raging hard on for Miyazaki.  You will not find many more people who shill his movies more than me.  Ponyo, in my opinion, is one of the masters lesser works.

I suppose my biggest complaint is that there is no real story to Ponyo.  I was about half way through and I was seriously wondering what act of the movie I was in.  There is nothing really driving the movie along.  We just meander and wander around the lives of these people as they go about their lives.  Eventually we are thrown a little bone in that there is a choice that Ponyo and the boy have to make.  But for the most part you are sitting there going “What’s the point?”

But I guess you could really call Miyazaki a master because even with that gripe (which actually could also be said about My Neighbor Totoro) this movie is still enjoyable.  Part of what makes his movies entertaining are his three dimensional characters.  It is practically a movie law that parents in these kinds of movies ignore their children and silence them while the kids are the only ones that see and believe in magical creatures.  The parents in Ponyo and Totoro are fully realized people.  The father in Totoro does not call his children immature or anything for coming to them about a story of magical creatures.  He actually discusses it with them which was actually mind blowing at the time of viewing it.  The mother in this movie works hard to support her child and can get frustrated at times, but she takes time out to play with him and to emotionally support him.  There is a real feeling of love.  You could also say there are no plain EEEEEEEEEEVIL characters in a Miyazaki movie.  They may do evil things but they are working from a position that you can understand.  So while there is no MacGuffin to find or big baddie to fight against, it was very entertaining still to watch these people interacting with one another and being overall enjoyable people.

The animation is great and it gives me nostalgia pains that Walt Disney has all but shot 2D traditional drawn animation in the head.  At times the seascapes and the work put into the frames are almost pieces of art in themselves.   The dubbing even is quite good (I think the Studio Gibli dubbing efforts are quite good overall).  Really, you can’t do wrong with Liam Neeson.

Overall, this movie is very good, but not great.  I would rank this in the lower end of Miyazaki’s work.  But even the worst of his work I would watch 10 times over any modern animated movie without the production company name of Pixar attached to it.  Seriously, f*ck off G-Force.  I would say this is best suited for a rental.  This is still a very good movie though and I do recommend it.

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