The Cliff by the Sea Seems Like a Pretty Cool Place

I really want this poster, it's so classy.

FROM RYAN’S MOVIE ADVENTURES: I saw Ponyo with some friends on the night it came out (14/8/09) so this article is a wee bit behind, unfortunately. I need to get better at keeping my articles more relevant.

But anyway, Ponyo (also known as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) is the acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki’s tenth feature length film and it is a stunning piece of cinema. For those of you who are a fan of him, which I’m expecting most of my few readers to be, this is most definitely more on the My Neighbor, Totoro side of his film spectrum. The film is very light and fairly fluffy, but don’t let that description stop you from seeing it. It’s most definitely going to be nominated for the Best Animated Feature at the 82nd Academy Awards (and will probably lose to Up, but that is definitely not a slide against Ponyo).

Disney did not do a very good job on advertising this film (which is really surprising, due to Disney’s mastery of the art of advertisments), all they had to say was that it was based off of the Little Mermaid and that it starred Hannah Montana’s little sister and every little girl in America would have instantly dragged their parents to the cinema to see it. Disney could have made so much money off of it, but they missed the boat (ha ha, nautical humour!).

Ponyo and Sosuke admiring Ponyo's unintentional handiwork.

Now if my inane ramblings are (theoretically) over with, maybe a short plot synopsis would be in order. Don’t worry, people who haven’t seen it (what’s wrong with you?), I’m not going to spoil the ending. I’m not going to give too much away, so cool it. Ponyo (Noah Cyrus, yes Miley Cyrus’ little sister, ugh), a little goldfish, lives in the ocean with her father, Fujimoto (Liam Neeson, it’s Qui-gon Jinn!) and her hundreds of little sisters. Fujimoto is a human sea wizard who is a very snappy dresser, but wears very visible face make-up including rouge and eye shadow and looks like he’s trying to be a transvestite, but is failing horribly in the clothes department. No, must stop getting side tracked! Blog post! Blog post! Ponyo is your fairly standard, young, female character: she wants more than what she has and is damn well going to get it. She, of course, escapes and ends up getting caught in some trash (oh noes, blatant environmental message! I wonder if there’s going to be as much ire for the shallownes

s of this message as there was about the message in Wall-e?) and is saved by Sosuke (Frankie Jonas, and yes, he is related to the Jonas Brothers). What follows is an adventure that has Ponyo using her magic to transform into a little girl, she falls in love with Sosuke, and unintentionally causes the major “antagonist” in the film, a massive storm that floods most of the island that Sosuke lives on. She receives help from her wizard (and human hating) father and her pseudo-goddess mother, Granmamare (played by Cate Blanchette) to set things right.

Ponyo (in her goldfish form) and her many, many sisters.

One scene of the movie I would like to go into some depth on, though, is the running on the waves scene. In the film, after Ponyo uses her magic to turn into a little girl, she uses more of her powers and creates massive waves (that are actually fish made of water) that swarm towards the small island that Sosuke lives on. Throughout this scene is some of the best animation I have ever seen in a cel-animated film. Everything is so seamless and fluid. Ponyo jumps form wave to wave with such grace and dexterity and it is quite the sight to behold. I think that this is the Miyazaki film flying scene of this movie (becuase there wasn’t an obvious one), but I could be wrong (but that rarely happens).

This is my new desktop.

If this plot sounds somewhat similar, it should. It is loosely based off of the Little Mermaid, but is actually slightly closer to the original story than the Disney movie that everyone knows, but that is a topic for another day (Thursday, actually).

There was two nagging doubts in my mind when it came to this film when I read the dub cast list, and that was the inclusion of a Jonas and Cyrus sibling as the main roles. I wasn’t suspicious just because they were related to four musicians that are completely destroying music like a cancer (okay, that’s a lie. I was suspicious), but more because they didn’t have any sort of major acting roles before, let alone any dubbing experience. All they had been in before this was their siblings respective television abortions, but I was pleasantly surprised that someone of relative talent came out of both the Jonas and Cyrus clans. I guess they can’t all be terrible. The rest of the cast was fantastic, here’s the cast (minus the additional voices) for your reading pleasure:

Cate Blanchett – Granmamare
Noah Lindsey Cyrus –  Ponyo
Matt Damon – Koichi
Tina Fey – Lisa
Frankie Jonas – Sosuke
Kurt Knutsson – The Newscaster
Cloris Leachman –  Yoshie
Liam Neeson – Fujimoto
Jennessa Rose –  Kumiko
Lily Tomlin – Toki
Betty White –  Noriko

Granmamare is pretty cool.

The most interesting aspect of the film is not the story, but the art style that was used for it. All of the backgrounds look like they were done in coloured pencil and it makes for a very nostalgic feel. They are absolutely stunning and a beauty to behold, and what makes it more interesting is that Miyazaki himself drew all of the backgrounds! Talk about commitment! The characters are beautifully animated, but they don’t stand out as much as the backgrounds.

The only other aspect of the film I would like to mention is the abosolutely atrocious remix of the film’s song.

Here is the real version:

Here is the version you want to stay away from:

Sosuke really likes his boat.

Now, I am not a weeaboo (some people may argue with me on this, but they are wrong and I am right). I don’t instantly think that the Japanese version is better (even though it usually is) and I am perfectly fine if the dubbing is done well, like all of the Miyazaki films I’ve seen. What I have a problem with is when the song is remixed into a crappy pop and over-synthesized shell of it’s former self. The original song is adorable and one would feel perfectly fine with it being stuck in their head, the other one would just make you wish for death in a brutal fashion.

But seriously, Ponyo is fantastic and everyone should see it. It’s great for children, it’s a perfect date movie and it seems that it has a wider release than any of the other Miyazaki films have had previously. Go see (and love) this movie.

One last thing, when I first saw Lisa’s driving, there was Eurobeat blasting in my head and I was getting way too pumped up. She could seriously be a character in Initial D and would fit in perfectly.

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