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Ponyo captures imagination

By Cyrus Oliver
On August 28, 2009

It has been a phenomenal year for film audiences. I would dare say we're en­tering a new golden age of cinema.An age covering all fronts with spectacular movies like Pixar's Up and just recently Tarantino's Inglo­rious Basterds. Still, the best movie I have seen by far this year is the newly released G-rated feature Ponyo. From acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbor To­toro), Ponyo is a breath of fresh air. Not only is the film traditionally ani­mated unlike recent years' almost exclusively CGI-based fare, it's got a lot of heart - something missing from most films period, animated or otherwise. For the uninitiated, which likely is anyone who reads The Campus, Ponyo tells the story of a childlike goldfish named Ponyo who falls in love with a young human boy named Sosuke. Against her father's wishes, Ponyo's relation­ship with Sosuke inspires her to transform into a hu­man. Unfortunately, the young lovers' union up­sets nature's balance, but with help from Ponyo's mother, a sea goddess, the balance might be restored at a price. It's obviously a retelling of Hans Chris­tian Anderson's The Little Mermaid, but it works. Unlike most of Miyaza­ki's recent films, Ponyo does not have a whole lot of depth nor is it driven by any underlying political or overtly philosophical themes. On a whole, the film is quite simple and straightforward. Instead of being terribly plot-driven, Miyazaki opts to focus on the characters. This simplicity has gar­nered some criticism, but, on the contrary, I find it to be a satisfying change of pace. It may not be as complex as Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke or as layered as Spirited Away, yet one can't help but feel nostalgic watching Ponyo - thinking back to child­hood memories when dis­covering a new corner of the house was more excit­ing than a day off of work. That being said, I en­courage any one of any age to watch Ponyo. The hand-drawn animation is beautiful, the storytelling is sophisticated in its own charmingly childlike way, and if nothing else has compelled you to give it a chance it also includes an impressive voice cast in­cluding Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Betty White and Liam Neeson just to name a few. Even if animated features aren't your cup of tea, you owe it to yourself to sus­pend your disbelief for 100 minutes and absorb your mind into the well-crafted world of Ponyo.With a limited theatrical release in America, one should take any opportunity to see it before it's too late. Click here for local showtimes.

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