Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ponyo: Sweet, Loveable, Magical

"There is a word to describe Ponyo. And that word is magical." --Roger Ebert

I'd heard a lot about Ponyo on the web, but missed it in
the theater. I honestly wondered whether I would like it at all.

It's really different from what I'm used to, for one thing. Though presented by Disney, it has a decidedly anime feel, thanks to the director Hayao Miyazaki (who also directed Spirited Away, the Academy Award-winning Animated Feature of 2002).

Which is really odd because I don't usually like anime.

And I LOVED Ponyo.

At first, again, I wasn't sure I would. It starts out with a strange, mystical scene with what are supposed to be little fish but look more like little girls in dresses swimming in water. Which makes a strange kind of sense, when you consider that Ponyo is based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid.

You just have to accept that the little fish girls are beautiful goldfish, okay? Suspend your disbelief. Oh, and that their Dad is some kind of great mystical sea guy who keeps them in bubbles.

Plus, they can heal cuts.

Oh, and they and really shouldn't eat meat. Trust me on this.

Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas, younger brother of the famous Jonas Brothers), a five year-old boy, is just walking along the beach near his home when he finds one of the beautiful goldfish trapped in a bottle. He releases her and, sure that she is no ordinary fish (which we already know), names his new friend Ponyo (Noah Lindsey Cyrus, yep, Miley's sister). He brings her home to his Mom.

I just have to interject here: Sosuke and his mother (Tina Fey) are the best animated family ever. Yay, an actual loving Mom in an animated feature for a change! This thrills me, and the fact that she isn't perfect and even gets really irritated with Sosuke's Dad just makes her feel even more real. And I just love how cute and caring Sosuke is. He's just this great little boy. He's only an animated character, and yet you want to take him in your arms and give him this big hug when he worries about his friend Ponyo.

Okay, back to the story.

As Sosuke and Ponyo grow closer, she reveals to him that she is the daughter of a powerful wizard (Liam Neeson) and a sea goddess (Cate Blanchett), and magically transforms herself into a real human girl (!).

Interjecting again: how cool would Cate Blanchett and Liam Neeson be as parents?! Another total win for the animated families in this movie.

Well, all is not sunshine and light, folks, because by crossing from her watery world onto land, Ponyo has created a dangerous imbalance in nature. As the moon begins to draw closer to the earth(!), sea levels rise and a giant tsunami threatens to destroy Sosuke’s home.

Meanwhile, Ponyo’s father marshals all his might to find his missing daughter, as the two children embark on an adventure of a lifetime to try and save the world.

The underlying message of Ponyo is one of love, acceptance, and sacrifice, just as in the classic fairy tale. Sosuke must accept Ponyo in her true form, and she must sacrifice her own magic, if they are going to make it through this.

Psst...don't worry, there's a happily ever after this time.

This is just a great, great film. Hugely, hugely recommended!

Ponyo came out on DVD and Blu-ray March 2nd.

Here are the bonus features from the Blu-ray version:

The World of Ghibli- Allows fans to immerse themselves in the amazing worlds from each film created by legendary filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki in this multi-layered interactive experience.

Behind the Studio- Unprecedented access to all the background, inspiration and process behind the making of Ponyo and the inner workings of Studio Ghibli through a series of documentaries. They include all new interviews with Hayao Miyazaki, and composer Joe Hisaishi.

Also included in this feature are:
• Creating Ponyo
• Ponyo & Fujimoto
• The Nursery
• Behind the Microphone: The Voice of Ponyo
• Producers Perspective: Telling the Story
• Scoring Miyazaki
• The Scenery in Ghibli
• Original Japanese Trailer

Ponyo is priced at $39.99 for Blu-ray Hi-Def and $29.99 for 2-Disc DVD.

I received a review copy of Ponyo on Blu-ray Hi-Def to facilitate this review.

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