“Ponyo” disappointing and overly simplistic

November 5, 2009 — by Vivian LeTran

The first movie I watched by director Hayao Miyazaki was “My Neighbor Totoro,” a 1988 Japanese animated film. “My Neighbor Totoro” was a cute and audience-friendly movie about two sisters’ magical adventure with Totoro, a spirit from the forest behind their house. I felt a connection with the characters and enjoyed the way they captured what it’s like to be a child. For this reason, Totoro was one of my favorite movies. When I heard of Miyazaki’s new movie, “Ponyo,” I anticipated something as extraordinary as (or better than) “My Neighbor Totoro”.

However, I found “Ponyo” to be a huge disappointment. Not only was the storyline a roller-coaster of confusion, but the whole movie was unbelievably absurd. [Spoiler Alert!] “Ponyo,” a mainstream Japanese animated film, is about a goldfish named Ponyo whose wish is to become human after meeting a human boy, Sosuke.

At one point in the movie, Sosuke’s mother, Lisa, opts to drive home through an approaching hurricane, merely telling the 5-year-old boy to hold on as she floored the gas pedal. Unbelievably, Lisa later leaves Sosuke home alone during the hurricane to rush back to her workplace.

Traditionally, children aren’t trusted to be left home alone because they can get themselves into dangerous situations. Such was the case with Sosuke and Ponyo. The storm had caused the sea to rise to an unrealistic level, seemingly submerging the whole world while leaving only the tree tops and Sosuke’s house above the waterline. Sosuke and Ponyo promptly decide to set off on a mission to find Lisa, armed with only a tiny boat and a candle.

From the start of their adventure, I found Sosuke and Ponyo’s situation impossible. The children could easily have gotten lost or died, yet somehow they managed to find exactly where Lisa was.

The ending was frustrating as well. It was extremely anti-climatic, considering the dangerous hurricane, the sea rising to inexplicable heights and the promise of the world’s destruction. In the end, everything was resolved with Sosuke’s verbal promise to love Ponyo. All he did was say, “Yes, I will take care of Ponyo.” But Sosuke was only five. What could a 5-year-old know about promising love for the rest of his life?

Although adventure and simplicity can be enjoyable, these elements seemed excessive in “Ponyo.” The majority of the movie was Sosuke’s and Ponyo’s journey. The plot plodded along slowly and was littered with boring scenarios. On top of that, the simplicity was more superficial than cute. Ponyo, a fish, wants to become a girl and thus, she grows arms and legs. And what can explain how a 5-year-old’s love for a fish saves the world? The story was shallow and disorganized. It only scraped the surface of deep matters that might’ve been better if they had been more developed.

Perhaps the movie would appeal to younger children who simply enjoy the animated portion of the film, but this movie has nothing to offer to any person hoping for a profound and practical storyline.

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