This exquisite pastel-colored, eye-popping example of hand-drawn animation is still very Japanese, aimed most specifically at children around the world -- but with a storytelling sophistication that adults will savor.
Five minutes into this magical film you'll be making lists of the individuals of every age you can expose to the very special mixture of fantasy and folklore, adventure and affection, that make up the enchanted vision of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki.
You watch a Miyazaki film with the pie-eyed, gape-mouthed awe of a child being read the most fantastic story and suddenly transported to places previously beyond the limits of imagination. It's quite a trip.
When you see Ponyo -- and you must -- be prepared for a movie that doesn't abide by Hollywood rules. This is a tale for children (yes, of all ages) who are ready to be coaxed into another world through simple words and luscious pictures.
It's a wonderful place that Miyazaki creates, an alternatively sweet and savage world that defies physics and common sense, as imaginative and impossible in its own way as Jules Verne's sci-fi fantasies or Maurice Sendak's animal kingdom.
If the plot of Ponyo is small as a minnow, its themes -- the relationship between parent and child, between the young and the elderly, between friends, between man and nature -- are large and fully realized.
Older kids and even adults are unlikely to get bored, thanks to the story's unforced sweetness, giddy highs, and stunningly beautiful visuals. Even in the unspoiled Devonian, real life never looked this good.
This poetic, visually breathtaking work by the greatest of all animators has such deep charm that adults and children will both be touched. It's wonderful and never even seems to try: It unfolds fantastically.
What held in the animator's previous films as eccentrically multifaceted dream logic comes off for once as a series of non sequiturs -- but really, why complain while sucking on an Everlasting Gobstopper of eye candy?