dir-scr Hayao Miyazaki
prd Toshio Suzuki, Steve Alpert, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall
voices Frankie Jonas, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, Jennessa Rose, Kurt Knutsson, Laraine Newman
release Jpn 19.Jul.08, US 14.Aug.09,
UK 12.Feb.10
08/Japan Ghibli 1h43
New friends: Ponyo and Sosuke

fey blanchett damon
VENICE FILM FEST los angeles film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
ponyo As with SPIRITED AWAY and HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, Miyazaki takes us on a strange flight of fantasy with this adventure centred around two young children. While it continually stimulates our imagination, it's a little too odd to really resonate.

Sosuke (voiced by Jonas) is a 5-year-old living in a cliff-top house with his frazzled mother (Fey) while his fisherman dad (Damon) spends most of his time at sea. One day, Sosuke finds a strange little fish named Ponyo (Cyrus). What he doesn't know is that Ponyo's the daughter of the Mother of the Sea (Blanchett) and the keeper of balance (Neeson), and that Ponyo is using her powers to become human. Actually, Ponyo doesn't seem very aware of this either, but whatever she's doing is throwing nature out of balance.

While there's a clear environmental message, with vivid images of pollution and strong comments on the damage humans inflict on oceans, we are continually distracted by surreal, fantastical imagery rendered in that unsophisticated, flat anime style. This isn't to say that the film isn't eye-catching; it certainly is. Colours swirl and shapes emerge from each other to create fascinating flow of water and creatures that's so inventive that it's impossibly to conceive where it might go next.

Young children will be entranced by this imaginative approach and by the story of a boy and girl facing a series of outrageous magical situations. But it's not so easy for the adults in the audience, since the characters written rather thinly and drawn fairly awkwardly. Although the animators continually catch us off guard with moments that are truly wondrous to look at. And as usual Miyazaki is unafraid to let things get rather creepy and scary along the way.

It's these touches keep the film from ever being dull. Ponyo gets the impulse (and ability) to become human after tasting blood and eating meat. Her father has a plan that will restore the balance of the oceans at the cost of humanity. Sosuke's best friends are three cranky old ladies (Leachman, White and Tomlin). And his mother is an almost comically terrifying bad driver. These challenging, witty touches are what make Miyazaki's films so unforgettable.

cert u themes, suspense 14.Dec.09

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... ponyo Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall