Tuesday, January 25, 2011

REVIEW: Ponyo (2008)

Ponyo. (2008). Dir: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Voices of Cate Blanchette, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson. G. DVD.

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.

Rating: SKIP


  1. My 10-year-old loved this, Marie, but I have to agree with you on this one. Congratulations on the new site, it looks great.

  2. This was the only Miyazaki movie I ever turned off before finishing. Normally I watch anything Ghibli does over and over. I keep meaning to go back and try Ponyo again.

    I'm with you on Totoro. That's one of my favorite movies ever. To this day I marvel at Mei, and the fact that someone managed to make a toddler into one of the most memorable film characters of all time.

  3. Col-thanks! And yeah, good for the kids!

    Thirdrail1, don't bother. The ending is lame. :-) And I'm with you on Mei. She was an incredible character!

  4. My kids - 7 and 10 - loved it. I thought it was just o.k., which surprised me, because several people have told me how wonderful it is. I was actually quite confused about the sea wizard - was he the bad guy? He seemed to be quite a threatening presence in early scenes, but is also the voice of reason and just wants to save the earth as the movie progresses. But he also wants to eliminate the humans, though he seems to have a pretty good reason. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to think about him or the "moral" of the story. I liked The Iron Giant more than this (another one I watched recently after hearing it recommended for quite a bit).