Film Review: ‘Ponyo’ (‘Gake no ue no Ponyo’ )

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18 Responses

  1. Russ Rogers says:

    I don't know how much Disney Animation has to do with the translation and distribution of Studio Ghibli films. It might be another division of Disney Enterprises entirely. But the Animation wing of Disney is under new management since the release of "Kiki's Delivery Service."A few years ago, Disney bought up Pixar, but the head of Pixar (John Lassiter) became the head of Disney Animation. SO you can look at it as a Disney takeover of Pixar OR a Pixar takeover of Disney Animation. I would hazard that Lassiter's artistic sense has more to do with Disney's fewer ethical qualms (staying closer to the original vision) than the growing international prestige that Miyazaki has gained.I think it's interesting that the film stars two kids with no movie experience (and hardly ANY acting experience)! Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas ONLY have the star cache of their older siblings, Miley and the JoBros. But, for Disney, that seems to be more than enough. I saw the trailer for Ponyo during a recent Jonas Brothers concert! It was the first concert I've seen that had a Movie Trailer as one of the opening acts.Oh my gosh, there is a perfectly AWFUL 'Ponyo' song featuring both Noah and Frankie and a boatload of autotuners making them sound like singing dyspeptic robots. Seriously, I baby puked in my mouth. That song alone will forever keep me from seeing this movie. If you have any interest in seeing this movie and want to maintain that interest, avoid Noah and Frankie singing "Ponyo." Blech.I'm one of those people who feels they haven't seen all the movie unless I watch all the closing credits. I can't stand the thought of possibly suffering through that entire song ever again.

    • Amy Goldschlager says:

      I have a simple rule. If it's not composed by Joe Hisaishi, I block out the music. If I end up getting this on DVD, I'll be watching the Japanese version, so the issue won't come up.

      • Russ Rogers says:

        You are a purist, and I'm guessing you have no small children. I think Disney is trying to groom a new generation of stars, not just acting, but double-threat singing/acting POP stars. They've had great success down this road with High School Musical, Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Camp Rock, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Ali and AJ, the Cheetah Girls and Hilary Duff. There is a whole stable of Disney Pop Stars getting groomed, primed and pimped by the Disney Machine. This is a long tradition, going back to the original Mickey Mouse Club, Annette Funicello and Haley Mills. I don't think it's all bad. I'm a fan of the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus and Hilary Duff. But judging from the amount of autotune slapped on Noah and Frankie, they just CAN'T SING! And the Ponyo Song is pure drek.The problem is, if your kids latch onto drek and decide they LOVE drek, that can make it hard to avoid as a parent.

        • Amy Goldschlager says:

          True, just two small nephews whom I love extravagantly and who are still too young for Miyazaki. Thankfully, as boys, they'll skip a lot of the pop machine you mention, but I already have the Bob the Builder theme song permanently stuck in my head, and know more about the characters than any adult should. :-)

  2. mike weber says:

    I’m not sure what i think of the near-worship with which Miyazaki is regarded; i enjoyed “Kiki”, “Totoro” was a lot of fun, and apparently didn’t really get some cultural aspects of “Mononoke” that might have rendered it more comprehensible.

    But i loathe the film of “Howl’s Moving Castle”. Starting with the castle’s means of motivation and ages of the characters and passing on to Howl’s butchered origin story.

    Rather like the film entitled “Damnation Alley” (note, i didn’t say “…the film of ‘Damnation Alley’…” and a few others, i fear that Miysxski’d “HMC” has poisoned the well for possibilities of a good filming thereof.

    The phrase “sucked dead moose through a straw” came to mind when i saw it.

    • Amy Goldschlager says:

      I bet you'll dig Earthsea when it comes out here, too. I have to say, I'm not happy with the way Miyazaki adapted the novel, either, particularly when it comes to Sophie's character. On the other hand, it's really pretty. I make it work by pretending that it doesn't have anything to do with the novel.

  3. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    Having Lassiter in charge of Disney Animation was such good news to me. His respect of Miyazaki’s work has ensured that the translations were given more respect. And I think that so far he’s put a lot of heart and soul back into Disney’s projects.

    All told, the translations they did quickly and for video were weak, or at lease weakER. My copy of the Porco Rosso translation with the unkown cast is far superior to the one with Michael Keaton and the all-star cast, so too the Totoro translation from the original Troma release. The Kid refuses to even WATCH the Disney one with Tim Daly and the Fannings. It could be a case of just preferring the one you heard first, but I found the Disney Totoro translation to be flat, not as joyous as the voice work in the original to be. So far I have to say the strongest one to date was Miramax’s Princess Mononoke. Well translated script, well acted, and got a good release aimed at an adult audience.

    The major releases have been strong – Spirited Away and Howl were well done, and I expect Ponyo to be equally good. Kiki was good, I think more because the majority of the people in it were professional voice people, and only a couple stunt castings. The Stars Doing Cartoons wave has increased greatly of late, across the board, and to a degree I think it’s resulted in some weak performances. Whether that’s simply due to them not being used to this new type of acting, or directors loath to push them, I don’t know. But voice work is as unique a form of acting as stage or film acting, and not every one can be done by every actor with equal aplomb.

    Jean Reno did the voice of Porco Rosso in the original French translation of the film. WOW, talk about good casting.

    • Amy Goldschlager says:

      I hate the way many of the dubs dumb down the script, which is particularly true for Spirited Away. No, Disney, we did not need that extra dialogue at the end where Chihiro's parents tell her that yes, moving to a new town is tough, and she answers that she thinks she can handle it now. Of _course_ she can handle it now. That's implicit. (Although her new friends may find her devotion to Shinto a bit odd.) I usually watch the sub, with one exception. I love the Kiki dub, because of Phil Hartman as Jiji.

      • mike weber says:

        I have to agree with you.But it's not just Disney dubbing Miyazaki.What was done to Luc Besson's "Arthur et les Minimoys" is a crime against something. Where's Leon or Nikita when we need them?

        • Amy Goldschlager says:

          Of course, it's the whole film industry, and that applies to the people writing the subtitle scripts as well. I am always conscious when I watch a subtitled film that I am going to miss something because I don't know the language. I recall enough French to know when the dialogue and the subtitles don't match. Egregious changes were made to some versions of two favorites of mine, "La Femme Nikita" and "Diva," in an effort to clean up the dialogue and motivations of the characters. Unfortunately, I just can't tell when that's done in other languages, but I always assume it is. Drives me nuts.

          • mike weber says:

            And the rewrites get rewritten – "Diva", which you mentioned, was originally released in the US with subtitles that referred to the villain as "the Spic". The later video releases changed that to something less "offensive".I have no idea if the subtitles on the version of "Yojimbo" were accurate or not, but, in the sequence that became both "apologise to my mule" in "Fistful of Dollars" and Ben's confrontation with the thugs in the cantina in "Star Wars", Sanjuro says to one of the thugs "Are you sure you want me to kill you? It'll hurt, you know." The Current DVCD has something less flippant.And while i don't know much French, i do know enough about film production (and film/creative people in general) to know that, in Truffaut's "Day for Night", the scriptgirl's "Hey – you changed your top!" on the current DVD )when the prop guy and the production secretary arrive late on location after a quick al fresco romp) probably is less accurate than the original US theatrical version's "Wrong continuity, girl."

          • Amy Goldschlager says:

            Yeah. "The Caribbean." Because that makes so much sense. Thankfully, my DVD of "Diva" doesn't use that set of subtitles.In Nikita, they attempt to rewrite the dialogue so that it doesn't seem as if Nikita hasn't invited the supermarket checkout guy home for sex.

          • mike weber says:

            "Yeah. "The Caribbean." Because that makes so much sense. Thankfully, my DVD of "Diva" doesn't use that set of subtitles."It might actually be a legitimate literal translation of the word.For instance, Spanish "cabron". Means "goat".Don't ever say it to any guy you're not ready to fight, though.

  4. mike weber says:

    I tried that. It’s just similar enough i can’t manage it.

  5. Nnedi says:

    You make all good points here but….it’s weird, I didn’t have a problem with these things.

    Sosuke’s mother seemed very realistic to me. She’s got some major parenting flaws and I was glad to see these shown in a film for children. I’m tired of kid’s films showing parents as “perfect unless they are villains”. I think that’s confusing for kids who have flawed but loving parents. His mother cracked me up. What a reckless woman!

    The parts where he was left alone, because of how horrifying this was, I really enjoyed them. It forced me to look at one of my greatest fears as a parent. My 6 yr old daughter who was with me liked these parts too because she got to see what it felt like to be alone like that. She doesn’t scare easily but she hates the idea of being left in the house alone. She’s not going to push me out of the house so she can be alone now but I think this filmed helped her face that a little.

    The Little Mermaid aspect…yeah, true. It’s there. But it didn’t bother me. Ponyo was just so magical and…irrational and it was all so innocent. As opposed to the Little Mermaid where their idea of “love” was something far more…common (and annoying).

    And I loved how in the end, Ponyo was the one who gave the kiss, not Sosuke.

    Love at the age of five? I remembered being totally in love with a boy named Lucky (we were both five). I kid you not, he had bright red hair and was actually from Ireland. *Snicker*, maybe he was a Leprechaun. But we pledged our undying love for each other and said we’d get married. Mind you, I don’t understand where all that sentiment came from as I didn’t watch much tv and most played outside with insects and flowers. :-). So it’s possible, I think.

    The scene where she was running on the waves utterly gave me CHILLS. It was absolutely exhilarating. I have a fear of turbulent oceanic waters and high winds…man, what a scene. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. It was great!

    Miyazaki has an obsession with the idea of love. We see it in almost all his films. Spirited Away is the prime example. The love he speaks of, though, isn’t sexual or marital or whatever. It’s something more basic, something lighter, something that is timeless, and yes, innocent.

    As for the translations…something is always lost in translation. *Shrug*

    Those are my thoughts.


  6. Jerry says:

    I took my kids and loved it (We scurried out as the horrible closing music started up.) One of my favorite parts of the movie is that there are no villains! Even Ponyo’s father isn’t a Disneyesque “bad guy” but a father who’s desperately concerned about his daughter.