I'll admit I was going into this film with an agenda. I was hoping for my first major scalp of the year, a film that everyone else loved that I could tear to pieces. But I can't, because in cinematic expressions of pure, innocent and unadulterated joy, I doubt Hiyao Miyazaki has a match. The credits are even in comic-sans font for god's sake.
That's not to say Ponyo doesn't have its problems because it certainly does. Its English language dialogue sounds awkward, often painfully so. Structurally its a mess, with a little too much stretching of reality. Not so much in the ocean scenes, in fact that's what you want from them. But in its human world, and I think Miyazaki spend more time there then he has ever done, it becomes a little ridiculous. My personal favorite being Our boy hero's mother trying to outright a tsunami in a smart car for n discernible reason, with her kid in the car. That bitch is crazy. But believe this is writerly nit-picking, because I did love the experience of this movie. Which kind of felt like the world view of a 6 year old on an acid trip, if that image wasn't absolutely horrifying.
The film seems to be a slightly tweaked version of The Little Mermaid, in which Ponyo, a lowly fish, who gets accidentally washed up in the backyard of Sosuke, a young boy. Together they form a boy to fish bond, so much so that by the power of her love, Ponyo turns herself into a human so they can be together. Unfortunately, the price of this seems to be all the seas in the world going crazy, and doing all sorts of freaky but awesome shit. Ponyo looks so stunning, particularly when underwater that honestly I have no description of how beautiful it is. You just have to see it. So it comes not to matter that the story is a bit scatty, because visually its just so spellbindingly enthusiastic and joyful. That one crazy but wonderful image of Ponyo sending the whole ocean into a fritz as shes runs atop the water to get to Sosuke, left my with a huge, unconscious grin on my face. It expressed such pure happiness. And that's an emotion that is so rarely earned or truly explored in cinema anymore. This film is no Spirited Away, its way too much of a mess, but a glorious mess all the same.
A charming, involving kids film that no film fan should mind seeing.