Ponyo: Finally, a Great Family Movie

If you haven’t seen it in the theatres yet, Ponyo, a new Japanese animated film by Hayao Miyasaki, is one of the rare gems of a movie that the whole family will enjoy, and that is worth seeing on the big screen.

Our family doesn’t get out to see movies together very often. Between the different ages of the kids, and our different desires for film pleasure, we often end up splitting up and going our separate ways…or more likely, waiting till a film’s released on DVD, or on TV so we can Tivo it. Occasionally, I can be convinced to go out to a family animated movie, but usually when it’s over I feel the same way I feel after eating a bag of Cheetos—slightly assaulted and gross. And I find myself longing for the days of real movies, which then makes me feel old and cynical.

I’ll go out by myself to see movies I really want to see (like I’m Not There). Or threaten to drag kids to movies I want them to see (like Julie and Julia, which I still haven’t gotten to). We all went to see Marley and Me on Christmas Day because I am friends with the John Grogan, who wrote the book…but the book was so much better than the movie. So when a good movie comes out, suddenly there is no struggle, and before you know it, we are all sitting up front waiting for it to begin, and I have high hopes.

Ponyo does not disappoint. The animation is beyond beautiful, and makes the standard computer-generated stuff that is de rigueur these days look just plain cheap. It is art. It is joyfully created. It is sweet and funny without being sarcastic or cynical. There is no moment where the parents are laughing at the expense of their children, or a children’s story is polluted with adult humor. And I don’t think there is a single potty joke in the whole movie (though, trust me, I can enjoy those as much as anyone else).

It’s a love story about 5-year-old kids. Which is kind of weird, but never inappropriate. The movie creates a feeling of dreaming come to life in animation, and more important, it leaves you with a feeling that is happy and thoughtful—like a good Japanese meal, one that makes you feel full and yet cleansed at the same time.

Ponyo… See it on the big screen while you can.

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11 Responses to Ponyo: Finally, a Great Family Movie

  1. Donna in Delaware August 24, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    That’s nice. Isn’t it refreshing to see and listen to a movie that doesn’t include the “F” word as every other word, or in every sentence. Some culture we have. My husband is European and he would always mention when we watched an American made movie, how it is almost impossible to hear the “F” word in a European made film, unless it was a British made film about life on the mean streets of English towns and cities or documentary films. I am so tired of trying to watch a film and get all the profanity and sex, so when a movie such as this is presented, I would run to see it, even though it’s animated and supposedly made for children. It will be quite refreshing. Looking forward to seeing it. Thanks, Maria.

  2. Donna in Delaware August 24, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    PS, I had never heard of the movie. I’ll look for it in the newspaper.

  3. Kattya August 24, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    and while you’re at it, rent the rest of Miyasaki’s movies. they’re all beautiful, meaningful and fun. My favorite is How’l Moving Castle. I let my in-laws take my kids to see Ponyo with out me, and my son thinks this one will be my #2 favorite, followed by My neighbor Totoro. Leave Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa for the older kids, as they have lost of violence in them, but don’t misjudge these movies, as they carry a strong message about respect for nature and creatures.
    Thanks Maria for sharing your experience.

  4. Barbara August 24, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    I’ve never commented on your blogs before. Had to pipe in on this, though. I stumbled upon Howl’s Moving Castle (which also has a beautiful musical score) when there was nothing much to rent several years ago for my daughter and me–we were instantly hooked on Miyazaki. This surprised me because I’d had a real aversion to the anime style, but this was based on the poorly down tv shows I’d caught glimpses of. My daughter’s current favorite is My Neighbor Totoro, but we love them all-Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and The Cat Returns. Sadly, though, we live in a rural area and were told the local theater won’t be getting Ponyo, so we’ll have to watch on the little screen.

  5. Amanda August 24, 2009 at 8:55 pm #

    Have you seen Miyasaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind? Animation is dated (I think it was originally made in the mid-80s), but the storyline is great.

  6. Sue August 25, 2009 at 7:12 am #

    My 28-year-old anime-loving son introduced me to Hayao Miyazaki’s films, which are wonderful and in a class by themselves. My favorite is “Laputa: Castle in the Sky.” I agree with Kattya: Some of Miyazaki’s movies, such as “Princess Mononoke,” are definitely not for younger children. But please don’t think Miyazaki’s movies are mostly for children just because they’re animated. The storylines and messages are perhaps most fully appreciated by adults. Thanks, Maria, for bringing “Ponyo” and Miyazaki to the attention of a segment of people who might otherwise not be aware of the films!

  7. Kim August 25, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    Thanks for your thoughts – my 16 year old son has been talking about going to see this, I think I’ll take him tonight. BTW, Julia and Julie is delightful (not for kids tho)

  8. Della August 25, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    I had not heard of this movie until I was checking online to see what was playing last Friday (Aug 21st). I took my little 6 yr old gr’daughter and we both loved it. It was so refreshing to see a movie that didn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel for words to use. I will be looking for other movies by Miyazaki and hope the local rental stores have them. The pictures, animation and voices were all excellent. Wonderful movie for the entire family.

  9. Della August 25, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    I saw Julia and Julie three weekends ago and it was very good. Meryl Streep sure can imitate voices, expressions and mannerisms!

  10. Heidi August 25, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    My husband introduced our young sons and I to “My Neighbor Totoro” and we all loved it. We plan to see his new one very soon. I love the fact that he includes environmental themes in his movies!

  11. my neighbor totoro lunch box April 13, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    I actually first saw the My Neighbor Totoro Dvd when I was
    a teen and I have got it for my children alongside a giant Totoro plush animal.

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