The great ocean deep proves a natural canvas for Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away), whose latest feature riffs on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale of The Little Mermaid, albeit with the distinctly Miyazakian twist that the mermaid princess is an anthropomorphic goldfish with magical powers, and her handsome prince is a 5-year-old schoolboy in full possession of his baby teeth. The advance word on Ponyo — presented here in an English-dubbed version adapted by E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison and supervised by Pixar guru John Lasseter — had suggested that the film would mark a conscious return by its director to the gentler, more kid-friendly style of movies. While that may be the case, it’s a movie for anyone who, like Miyazaki himself, can still happily commune with his or her inner 5-year-old. Like much of Miyazaki’s work, the film carries an unsubtle environmental message about the littering and overharvesting of the ocean. Yet, as he glances at the world once more through a child’s wide, unspoiled eyes, Miyazaki seems to find hope for renewal.

Categories: Movies