Saturday, 13 February 2010

Ponyo - Review

You know, if I spent my time exclusively reviewing animated films, my life would be far richer for it. Admittedly I have already seen the original Japanese version of the film, over a year ago, but thought since most audiences would be venturing to the cinema for the dubbed version it would only be right to review it instead.

Besides my obsession with Walt Disney/Pixar the only other animation studio I would go out of my way to find time for these days is without a doubt Japan-based, Studio Ghibli especially the films of legendary storyteller, Hayao Miyazaki. Already producing memorable movies such as the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, the epic Princess Mononoke and the visually breathtaking Howl's Moving Castle, his latest animated film, Ponyo, very much lives up to the man's title as one of the best animated directors in the world at the minute.

Already being out in Japan for nearly two years, Ponyo - its full original title Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea - draws immediate comparisons with one of Walt Disney's most famous works, The Little Mermaid about a fish who yearns to be human after falling in love with a innocent boy named Sōsuke.

I remember initially seeing the trailer for the film and thinking that I might not enjoy it as much as the director's more famous works with the slightly less elaborate landscapes or epic scope along with the slightly childish nature of the whole affair, however its good to know you can't review a film on a trailer alone. The story from beginning to end was completely heart-warming, I would actually feel sorry for you if you failed to crack a smile at least once during the film's 100 minute running time, it was just so uplifting.

Miyazaki prevails in making a film that children will adore and adults are able to relate to as well. The way he was able to simplify the concept of love into such a sweet and innocent relationship between two children was glorious, as well as the more mature themes between the adult characters such as Ponyo's father - voiced by Liam Neeson - having to deal with the angst of his daughter wanting to grow up and branch off on her own I thought was handled in a way that adults would totally 'get' while not dumbing it down for children.

The animation itself once again proved that 2D as a medium is far from dead, the backgrounds may of not been as painstakingly detailed as Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle but the feel of it really suited the story. It almost felt like an animated child's painting from a playgroup class when you were a kid. Smart, simple, vivid and just fills you with innocently pure joy.

Unlike some other foreign studios when dubbing their movies into English - which I tend to find a futile task - Studio Ghibli have the luxury of Walt Disney handling their duties and always manage to draft in an all star cast for the occasion with Ponyo boasting possibly the most impressive voice cast to date. Featuring the likes of - as already mentioned - Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Lily Tomlin as well of course Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas in the roles of the central characters, Ponyo and Sōsuke respectively.

The orchestration was another particular highlight with long time Miyazaki collaborator, Joe Hisaishi providing a beautiful emotive score that never attempted to out-do the visuals and wonderful story unfolding before the audiences eyes. It succeeded leaps and bounds in enhancing an already pleasurable experience.

Final Thoughts
While not quite reaching the emotional heights and initial jaw-dropping experience I had when watching Spirited Away for the first time, you would be hard pressed not to let your heart be warmed by the title character's innocent playful nature. Ponyo is a magical journey that kids of all ages will surely adore for years to come. Visually beautiful, completely enchanting, if you're like me, hours after watching the film, you will surely still be smiling at the thought of it.


See This If You Liked...
Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo.

Ponyo is in cinemas - hopefully - everywhere now.

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