Thursday, August 20, 2009

Box Office Review - Ponyo

Legendary Japanese animator and director Hayoa Miyazaki gives us his tenth film Ponyo. While it is not his best film, it is great to see another hand drawn animated film from him.

Story wise the film shares many similarities with The Little Mermaid. Ponyo wants to explore and live on the land, while her father wants her to remain a fish. Ponyo escapes and is found by a boy named Sōsuke who protects her. Ponyo after spending some time on land is taken back to sea by her father. She then through her magical powers transforms from a fish into a human and sets out to reunite with Sōsuke. The problem is her use of power has off set the balance of nature resulting in a huge storm that threatens the town that Sōsuke lives in. I found that I was not as enthralled with this story as I was with Miyazaki’s past two films Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away. That may be because this film feels like it was aimed at kids more of a preschool age. That is not to say that I did not appreciate a lot of the goings on, but it just never seemed like there was much of a conflict in the film. Even with this massive storm that Ponyo created there are no consequences for anyone. This is especially evident in the anti-climactic ending. If the ending had been adjusted and Ponyo had to face some consequences for flooding and entire town I think I would have enjoyed the film more. That being said this is still A Hayoa Miyazaki film and there is a lot to love. This film was very relaxing to watch and that has to do with the hand drawn animation. All of the environments come alive. When the story is deep in the ocean it looks fantastic. The water which Miyazaki animated himself looks incredible and the stuff that is done with it is masterful. There are big waves, shots from under the water looking up at characters, and anything else you could imagine done with this animated water. Miyazaki also did a great job in creating a great fictional town. A lot of the town is shown and that results in a feeling that the story is taking place in an actual community.

As this was released by Disney in North America, all of the dialogue is dubbed. Unlike a live action film I prefer to watch foreign animation dubbed, especially when the dubbing is handled by Disney. They do a very good job. The voice talent includes Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, Cate Blanchet, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Betty White, Lily Tomlin. Ponyo and Sōsuke are played by Noah Cyrus,and Frankie Jonas and they both do very good jobs. One thing, if you are not used to Japanese animation be warned that Ponyo does a lot of high pitch yelling that can get annoying at times. (“PONYO WANTS HAM!!!!!” being one her best lines)

All of Hayoa Miyazaki’s work is worth a watch so definitely check this out. I wish though that as much care had gone into the story as was given to the animation. Howl’s Moving Castle had a runtime of two hours while this had a time of an hour forty. An extra twenty minutes to Ponyo would probably have put this up with Spirited Away.

A Good Banana

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