ponyo movie review

Bright colors and lots of fantastical elements paint the canvas for Hayao Miyazakis latest animated feature, Ponyo. The film is laced with an A-list cast of actors, but lead by second generation Disney spawns, Frankie Jonas and Noah Cyrus. Ponyo is a family-friendly-feast filled with comedy, adventure, and dare I say a touch of romance? The film offers you a one way ticket to the land of make believe, but to enjoy it make sure you park your common sense at the door.

Check out the review after the jump…

The Plot:

The film centers on a young gold fish named Ponyo (Cyrus), the daughter of a water wizard named Fujimoto (Liam Neeson), who was once human, but is now a being of the sea. He believes that it’s his job to maintain balance between creatures of the ocean and on land. Ponyo, is the most rebellious of his children and is curious to see how life with humans could be. She escapes from under her father’s thumb and takes a trip to the surface. By chance she meets a five year old boy named Sosuke, and within a scene or two she declares to him, “Ponyo loves Sosuke!” Similar to The Little Mermaid, (which Ponyo is loosely based) the twosome go through several trails and tribulations to prove how strong their friendship really is. Will Ponyo stay on land or will she be forced to return to the sea? You’ll have to see it to find out!

The Good:

  • The Animation: This was an obvious choice. The animation in this film is beyond beautiful. It’s like walking through a coloring book. In a world currently over-saturated with CGI films this was a breath of fresh air. It’s traditional, yet not understated.
  • The Music: The music was pitch perfect. It made you feel as if you were physically being whisked away to another time and place. It definitely aided the story, especially in the action scenes. Joe Hisaishi was responsible for creating a score which was complimentary but not distracting.
  • Frankie Jonas/Noah Cyrus: These young actors starred in the lead roles of Sosuke and Ponyo. It’s hard not to be charmed by these two while in character. There’s a sweet, naivety that Ponyo has that Noah brings out without sounding forced. Sosuke is more of an independent character who has moments of vulnerability every now and again, and Jonas brings it out naturally.
  • The Direction: What more can I say about Hayao Miyazaki that hasn’t already been said? Every scene, every shot, and every frame of Ponyo was placed perfectly. There was a good flow of timing with the various themes from the film. Moments of sadness, excitement, and fear blended seamlessly from one point to another.

The Bad:

  • The Supporting Cast: Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Betty White, Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin all do voice over work in this film. Did they do an over the top, extraordinary job with their scenes? I’d have to say no. There was nothing spectacular about their performances that couldn’t have been done by any other actor. They were simply there for name value.
  • Extremely Young Love: This is one of those things that will bother you, if you apply logic to this movie. The plot puts a lot of pressure on a five year old couple. Sosuke’s love for Ponyo is actually the backbone of the story. It’s a lot to ask from a child, and sometimes that comes off a little too strong.


Ponyo is a good family film that will entertain and delight viewers of all ages. It’s an escapist piece that allows you to take a break from all reality. I would definitely recommend you seeing this film this weekend. If not for the kids, go to get a kick of nostalgia for yourself.

Ponyo opens in theaters nationwide on August 14, 2009.

Rating: 9.5/10