Critics loved Ponyo. They love pretty much anything directed by Hayao Miyazaki, really. I myself have only seen one other of his films: Spirited Away, which I thought made no sense. Was that supposed to be the point?
At least with Ponyo, I could follow what little plot there was. The premise: Ponyo (voiced by Noah Cyrus) is a fish. She washes up onto the shore and is found by a little boy named Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas). Ponyo instantly falls in love with Sosuke (despite the fact that he's supposed to be five years old). Ponyo's father Fujimoto (voiced by Liam Neeson) is some sort of sea god who hates humans for ruining the ocean, and he wants his daughter back. Ponyo loves Sosuke so much that she doesn't want to go back, and she somehow manages to magically transform into a little girl, with whom Sosuke falls in love (again, despite the fact that he's five years old). This transformation has upset the balance of nature (no, really - that's what the movie said), causing huge storms. Will Ponyo and Sosuke be able to live happily ever after? On the off chance you haven't figured out the answer to that question, I won't spoil it.
That's probably a good premise for a kids movie; indeed, this probably is a good kids movie. It's certainly different than what Americans call kids animated movies these days - yes, I suppose Pixar is an exception, but if any other American animation studio had done that plot, it would have been badly computer animated, filled with pop culture references, and a lot faster paced. As it stands, the movie is beautifully hand drawn and doesn't make much use of the many celebrities promoted as being in the voice cast. Would an American kid used to Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs or whatever accept that? I don't know, and either way, it all seemed pretty sappy to me. Call me cynical, call me a hypocrite - I'm probably both - but Ponyo did little in my mind to rise above "cute."
Millionaire in a few hours,