Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Ponyo

Lowdown: A magical sea creature befriends a child and seeks to become human.
Review:
Ponyo is another animation film from Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki of Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle fame. In many respects, saying that should give you most of the information you would need to take from a review of 2008’s Ponyo: it tells you what you should be expecting in terms of animation style, child oriented approach, eccentric yet lovely story telling, and environmental motifs. All those qualities that made me keep an eye open for new Miyazaki deliverables apply to Ponyo, which is why I think you should watch it.
By Miyazaki’s terms, Ponyo’s hour and a half are rather short. We follow a seafaring family's child (Sosuke) who finds this strange fish that got stuck in an empty can. He takes the fish with him, helps it recover and names it Ponyo. Little does Sosuke know that Ponyo is actually the child of magical sea creatures that will stop at nothing to get Ponyo back to where it came from, including creating tsunamis and storms that threaten the whole of human civilization. Ponyo, on her side, falls in love with the innocent boy who rescued her and seeks to leave her watery past behind to become human.
Conflicts between the creatures of the sea are mirrored on the human side. Sosuke’s mother is a hard working one who struggles between her nursing career and looking after her child, while her husband captains a ship and is away most of the time. Stress is often the result.
Put together, Ponyo is a lovely pastel of stories all mixed together and told in Miyazaki’s typical charming way. His films are great because they are unique, and Ponyo qualifies in that department too; the contrast between Miyazaki’s and Hollywood’s formalistic approach cannot be more apparent. The result ends up more than a film that tells a lovely story and conveys environmental messages quite effectively. Most notable is the very loyal to science way the tale is told, as opposed to Hollywood’s often religiously saturated messages.
The Ponyo DVD features the original Japanese soundtrack as well as an English version (which is the one we went for). That English soundtrack has some famous names behind it, like Cate Blanchett and Liam Neeson. To be frank I don’t understand why we need A List mega-stars to do a dubbing job that plenty of less famous actors could use in order to establish a name for themselves; must be one of those demands coming from the marketing team.
Best scenes: Some of the more magical scenes involve classical music coupled with rich and colorful animation. They’re a delight of creativity.
Technical assessment: Ponyo’s an average DVD, which is to say that compared to the spectacular picture we get on many Hollywood animation releases it looks a bit off mark.
Overall: Another hit from Miyazaki at 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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