Gake no Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Many have called this a "lesser" work of the master. I prefer "familiar;" Miyazaki's staples are everywhere, such as child protagonists and some light environmental messages (though his signature motif, flight, is notably absent). So Ponyo
is pretty much business as usual with Studio Ghibli - business as usual with one of the most consistently creative and charming film studios in the world. Expect beautiful animation (here traditionally hand-drawn), endless expression, and a highly imaginative whimsical romp through the glowing eyes of youth.
Some will find the story simplistic and pointless, but those with an eye for nuance will see Miyazaki's gift for situation and presence on par with his masterful My Neighbor Totoro
. I responded best to scenes reminiscent of my own childhood (and others of theirs I'm sure), for instance the respective feather-ruffling of parents or the excitement of exploring a new friend's home. Both were nostalgic illustrations of particular instances I had long forgotten, and am now glad to remember. Because of this focus more still will miss the sweeping epicness of say Laputa
, however they will also miss the point. This is thoroughly a family film, its themes paternal and its conflicts relative. See it with your family. Grab some kids and join their wide-eyed ranks for 90 minutes.