Ponyo (U)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/02/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Beautifully animated, utterly charming adventure with a strong voice cast, delightful characters and an emotionally engaging, if bonkers, storyline.

What's it all about?
Directed by Japanese animation genius Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle), Ponyo centres on lonely five-year-old Sosuke (Frankie Jonas, younger brother to the Jonas Brothers), who lives in a windswept house on the cliff-tops with his frazzled mother, Lisa (Tina Fey), while his fisherman father (Matt Damon) spends most of the day at sea. One day, Sosuke finds a strange little fish named Ponyo (Noah Cyrus, younger sister of Miley), who unexpectedly sprouts legs and begins to turn into a girl.

However, unbeknownst to Sosuke, Ponyo is the escaped daughter of the Mother of the Sea (Cate Blanchett) and the wizard Fujimoto (Liam Neeson), whose job it is to defend the sea and keep the elements in balance. And as Ponyo becomes more and more human, her magic causes huge tidal waves that threaten to flood Sosuke's coastal village.

The Good
As with the majority of Miyazaki's movies, the American dubbed version is excellent, though purists will be pleased to know that subtitled versions are available in selected cinemas. Liam Neeson's booming voice is particularly inspired casting for Fujimoto, while Tina Fey brings a welcome comic note to Sosuke's ditzy mother (her terrible driving is a particular highlight) and there's strong support from Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin and Betty White as three old ladies at the care home where Lisa works.

The animation is utterly gorgeous throughout and the magical sequences (such as Ponyo running on the waves) are both delightful and thrilling. However, it's the attention to detail in the way the characters behave that really makes this something special, especially in the scenes where Ponyo is observing and mimicking those around her or running around the house and bumping into things.

The Great
The plot is admittedly on the slight side (despite borrowing liberally from things like Cinderella and The Little Mermaid) and is utterly bonkers to boot, though the film still manages to squeeze in a subtle message about the dangers of pollution. It's also genuinely moving in its depiction of the friendship between two lonely children.

Worth seeing?
Ponyo is an emotionally engaging, beautifully animated adventure that's a treat for adults and young children alike. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 23:13

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