Ponyo (2009) Movie Review

Ponyo (2009)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler


Starring: Cate Blanchett, Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Release Date: 14 August 2009
Language: English
Length: 101 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 4/5 stars


“This Japanese anime feature from famed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki follows the adventures of a 5-year-old boy, Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas), and his burgeoning friendship with Ponyo (voiced by Noah Lindsey Cyrus), a goldfish princess who desperately wants to become human. After running away from and then being recaptured by her strict father (voiced by Liam Neeson), Ponyo – with some help from Sosuke – becomes more determined than ever to make her dreams come true. But will her wishes throw the entire earth off balance?” — Netflix.com


This is a cute little movie by Hayao Miyazaki.  It reminded me most of his other film, My Neighbor Totoro, in that it is mainly geared towards younger children.  Sosuke is 5 years old in this movie and I feel like the movie is geared towards children of that age or in that range.  Ponyo has a slow, gentle little storyline with some fun moments and some exciting sequences where the ocean literally comes to life.  This is not a movie that was made with an adult audience in mind.  That said, it is certainly something that adults can watch and enjoy too!  Miyazaki has such a vivid and creative imagination so every world that he creates is interesting, colorful and full of unexpected surprises.

The film has a tiny bit of inspiration from The Little Mermaid story, but not much.  The storyline is pretty creative and I thought that the characters were really interesting.  Disney did all new voice overs for each character so you are hearing English and watching the characters’ mouths move around English words.  I love that they spend the extra time and money to recreate these movies for an English-speaking audience as it means children in the US can enjoy them as much as children in Japan.  Disney lined up top-notch acting talent to do the speaking parts for this movie and I thought that all of the voices were very well cast and well acted.

The animation is lovely.  Everything is bright and colorful, but simply animated, which really suited the storyline.  I watched this movie with my 12-year-old nephew and we both had a fun time, though he still thinks Miyazaki‘s movies are kind of weird.  This movie also presents a message about taking care of our oceans and not dumping so much waste and garbage into the water that literally gives our planet life.  I appreciate that the message was contained in the movie, but was presented as a sidelight of the movie and not the major theme.  The major theme is about keeping life in balance: when Ponyo becomes a human, she upsets the balance between the magical world and the human world.  While most of us do not have magic that we need to balance with regular life, it is important to keep our individual lives in balance.

If you have young children at home, this is a wonderful rental to get for the family to enjoy!  It is very different than a Disney animated film or a Pixar feature, but it is just as cute and fun as the movies put out by these two studios.  This movie is a great introduction to international films because it is so approachable and, while creative and different, it is also fun and pretty easy to understand.


This movie features some mild action sequences that can be a bit scary with huge fish and other water creatures coming up out of the water, waves coming to life and crashing over cars, etc.  Recommended for viewers of all ages.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Fantasy Movies

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