275) Ponyo (2008) Dir: Hayao Miyazaki Date Released: August 2009 Date Seen: August 31, 2009 Rating: 3.5/5
Hayao Miyazaki's anime does not condescend to its child audience's need to be taken seriously. Instead, his stories assume that children will and should get respect for their ingenuity and limitless energy. If anything, Ponyo, his latest film, commends adults for acting more like kids. Lisa (Tina Fey) is a great mother because she emulates her son Sosuke's (Frankie Jonas) ability to temper responsibility with the childish ability to just go with the flow. The other kids laugh at Sosuke when he tells them he has a job--"You're five years old!" one protests--but that's just because they don't realize just how self-aware he is. Taking care of himself and his new gal pal Ponyo (Noah Cyrus) while taking everything that happens as a result of Ponyo's running away from home in stride is a job in and of itself.
Events unfold gracelessly in Ponyo because that, to Miyazaki, is how things go, even in fantasies. Sosuke understands that and Gran Marmare (Cate Blanchett), Miyazaki's enlightened harbinger of nature and ruler of the ocean, respects his judgment at the end by earnestly asking him if he can love her daughter. This astonishing question, which closely resembles the vows a bridegroom must make in order to marry his wife, is clearly not meant to be answered by an ordinary five year-old but rather another extraordinary ideal child of Miyazaki's imagination.*
*That doesn't mean Gran Marmare's question makes any more sense taken out of its context. Miyazaki usually runs out of creative steam by the end of his films so it stands to reason that by this put, things fail to tie together very neatly. Still, it's nice to know that it does make sense within the film.