Monday, September 7, 2009


“Ponyo” is the latest film by animation genius Hayao Miyazaki. The same cat who brought us “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away” has done a pretty cool movie about an adorable, magical goldfish who turns into a human girl.

Now, as a general rule, I’m not a fan of fantasy. Miyazaki, however, is a master of the genre and usually wins me over. I did enjoy “Ponyo”, but I don’t think it’s the masterpiece that most people are making it out to be. That said, I’m not sure if any of the Studio Ghibli films is better than the next, but personal preference winds up playing a big part in enjoyment of each film. I prefer the R-rated “Princess Mononoke” that contains violence and action and adults driving the plot over the G-rated “Ponyo” (the English version being about the love between the youngest Jonas brother and Hannah Montana’s sister).

I really enjoyed the action-y part in which Ponyo is running on the fish-waves (you’d have to see it to know what the hell I’m talking about). This part actually made me really want to see a Flash movie, and some of the underwater stuff made me want to see at least an animated Aquaman movie.

The other day in Japanese class, I overheard a girl talking about seeing the movie with a friend. Her friend was apparently like “This is dumb. I don’t get it. What the hell?!?” and she responded with “Just go with it. Let go of your expectations. You just have to sit back and watch.” I felt like this friend of my classmate had some fair criticism. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t like fantasy and want a movie to make sense.

Now, I was able to “let go” and just enjoy a kiddy fantasy movie, but it certainly wasn’t without its flaws. The number one rule for movies is that they shouldn’t break their own rules. A problem with this movie is that the rules aren’t very clearly established, so by the end I’m not entirely sure whether the rules are strictly followed or not. The end, unfortunately, is a bit anti-climactic.

The English voice cast is pretty good. I was originally a bit ticked that Disney went to such in-house pandering lengths as to cast Frankie Jonas (the little brother to the tween-oriented band the Jonas Brothers) and Noah Cyrus (the little sister of Miley Cyrus) in the lead roles. Surprisingly, the kids did well, though I think Disney should have gone with seasoned (adult) vets like Tress Macneille, Pamela Hayden, and Bumper Robinson (to name only a few). Tina Fey did alright. So did Betty White, Cloris Leachman, and Cate Blanchett. Liam Neeson was excellent as usual. Matt Damon was unnecessarily cast (his character had only a handful of lines! Why cast a big-name for that when you could get Billy West or someone like that for much cheaper?).
A problem was that the original dialogue doesn’t seem to translate well, so some of the actors are stifled by what seems to be bad writing.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get the DVD. We’ll see. “Spirited Away” had to grow on me over time.

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