Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (2008) Starring: Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas
Oh, ouch Netflix Instant only had the dub on Instant Watch. They really should give options for this sort of thing. That said, the dubbing here certainly could have been worse. What I can never understand with studios when doing vocal casting is the weird insistence on using child-actors for acting roles. That has succeeded maybe once in the history of animation, and that was the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. I also don’t really understand the need for celebrity casting at all in a film whose marketing is already limited with only select theaters getting it, but WHATEVER DISNEY! Clearly, you do not have the best decision-making record in Hollywood.
To change gears and shift the focus over to the good things in Ponyo is enormously easy: Studio Ghibli has crafted another little beauty of a film, creating an especially gorgeous underwater world. Sosuke (Jonas) [SIDEBAR: I'm sooo glad they made sure to pronounce the Japanese names right!] lives in a small seaside community, in a more-or-less self-sufficient house. When he goes down to the water before school one day, he finds a goldfish and names her Ponyo (Cyrus). However, by giving her human food and tasting human blood, via a small cut on Sosuke’s hand, Ponyo is able to develop human attributes. After being re-captured by her father, Fujimoto (Neeson), Ponyo makes a break for it in order to become human, causing catastrophic weather along the coast.
Storywise, it’s certainly not one of Ghibli’s better fare, but since it was described to me as Super Environmentalist, I was pretty surprised to see how little environmentalism played into the plot. If anything, it was much more subtle and kept in-theme with other products by Ghibli, and it melded nicely with the adaptation of The Little Mermaid fairytale.
It is cuter-than-cute and I was able to write off the weird inexplicable stuff as just that–weird and inexplicable. Such as when the fish that should be long extinct have resurfaced with the high waters in the second half. There isn’t really a point to it, besides to show how the waters have begun reclaiming the land. The animation in those scenes is just so pristine that I didn’t care– leaves on the trees were as visible as the fish floating under them.
The real issue I had with Ponyo was the rushed resolution. Well, more like all-over pacing issues. While we’ve got a fairly slow introduction to the characters and the crazy weather inspires a really dramatic car ride, there’s a slow aftermath where not much happens. They’re on a boat and greet others who are on boats, and it does not seem like the disaster it would be, THEN BAM RESOLUTION!
It’s fun and it’s pretty as hell, but it’s not the best Miyazaki film.