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Thursday, April 8, 2010

GAKE NO UE NO PONYO / PONYO (2008)


This waterlogged anime fable is a welcome throwback to the clean narrative lines & spare storybook visuals that first introduced Hayao Miyazaki to American audiences. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO/’88 and KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE/’89 had the economy of great cinema, while the lesser-known PORCO ROSSO/’92 may be his masterpiece, a perfectly shaped work. By comparison, recent releases which have garnered so much critical attention & awards, feel over-elaborated and exhausting. PONYO is also his most kid-friendly film in some time, combining elements of THE LITTLE MERMAID and PINOCCHIO in its tale of a fish, who falls in love with the little boy who saves her. But giving up the ocean to become a real girl throws nature out of whack, the moon moves toward Earth and the waters rise. Something’s gotta give! As usual, Miyazaki gets into trouble with his characterizations of wizards & sorceresses (is Ponyo’s mom supposed to be an homage to Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy?), but most of the film is a treat to look at. The English dub is as successful as it is starry (Cate Blanchette, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cloris Leachmen, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, plus Noah Cyrus & Frankie Jonas!) and the manner in which the waters of the Earth are variously characterized is wicked fun . . . and smart.

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