This story about a little boy with a magical goldfish that turns into a little girl is probably my least favorite Miyazaki movie, and the most suited to children. I've seen many, though not all, of his films; certain themes recur, primarily the abandonment of a child by his or her mother. Sometimes, as in Spirited Away, the abandonment is chilling and heartbreaking; sometimes, like in My Neighbor Totoro (my personal favorite Miyazaki), there's a layer of sweetness that overtakes the sadness. But in Ponyo, it's just sort of boring.
Little Sosuke lives with his mother; his father is a seaman who's often away, and Sosuke and his mom share a tender bond as they cope with his long absences. One day Sosuke finds a goldfish in his pail, a very special goldfish who wants to become human. He names her Ponyo. But she belongs to a marine king who seems like a cross between Mick Jagger and David Bowie, a Beau Brummel of the seas decked out in his finest 70s hallucino-wear, complete with flowing tresses and fancy hats. Okay. What follows is a sort of saccharine adventure involving Sosuke's quest to find his mother, who's disappeared during a particularly bad storm, and save Ponyo so she can live on land as a little girl.
I probably would have loved Ponyo when I was 8. I didn't hate it. I thought it was cute and sweet. And it's gorgeous to look at, as all Miyazaki movies are. But this is definitely one for the kids. If you're a big Miyazaki fan you'll probably love it, and if you have kids I'd recommend it as a fine family film. But for me it was a little too fluffy and compared poorly to his other films. So unless you're planning a movie night for the kids or a Miyazaki film fest for yourself, I'm going to tell you to pass on Ponyo.