Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Ponyo - Not Your Average Goldfish

It took a long time before we felt comfortable taking our oldest daughter to the movies. Because of her autism, we didn't think she could handle the dark theater, the loud audio, and the longer storylines. Her first movie was Up, and after that was a success, I carefully looked for the next movie to take her to. My next choice happened to be a perfect selection, and as a result, Cordy loves the brilliant Miyazaki animated film Ponyo, which just came out on DVD and Blu-Ray last week.

For those who missed it in the theaters, Ponyo is a must-have for your library, whether you have young children or not. Like other Miyazaki films, the story is simple enough for a young child to follow and enjoy, but rich in depth and beautiful animation to keep adults just as transfixed.

Ponyo is loosely based on the classic children's tale The Little Mermaid. It follows the little magical goldfish, Ponyo, a daughter of the sea goddess and a wizard, as she desires to learn more about the world and befriends a little boy named Sosuke. She becomes so enamored with Sosuke and all of humankind that she transforms herself into a little girl, and in doing so upsets the balance of nature and unleashing a flood on Sosuke's little village. Together the two children go on an adventure to save the world, not knowing that their adventure will determine if Ponyo can remain a little girl or will be transformed into sea foam.

OK, that recap may sound a little silly, but there's so much more to the story. If I tried to tell you all of it, this review would take pages to write. The relationship between the two children is both innocent and wise. Ponyo knows nothing of the world above the sea, and her wonder at even small things such as lanterns and wiggling toes is charming.

Sosuke's mother is also a strong woman who is brave, hard-working, and not without flaws - she could easily be one of many moms I know. And underneath the story is a not-so-subtle environmental message reminding us that we need to take care of our planet.

The cast is an all-star group of voices that fit their characters perfectly, including Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey, Matt Damon and Betty White. Other than Liam Neeson, no other actor was immediately recognizable by voice alone.

Ponyo is available on DVD and in a special Blu-Ray+DVD pack. The special features include an incredible series of documentaries titled Behind the Studio, which gives us a special look inside Studio Ghibli and the world of Hayao Miyazaki, and an interactive World of Ghibli feature.

While I'm already a big fan of other Miyazaki films, Ponyo might just be my new favorite. It's a movie that can be watched over and over without losing any of the magic of the film, and each time you watch it you'll notice something new. If you're looking for a new movie that's free of violence and reminds kids that there is still magic in the world, I highly recommend Ponyo - it will quickly become a classic in your home, too.

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