Ponyo on the Cliff is Hayao Miyazaki’s take on The Little Mermaid, and is an enjoyable lightweight romp.
The operative word being “lightweight”. For all that Ponyo is as visually spectacular as any Miyazaki it is lacking the magic that Totoro holds for me.
I’m not sure why that is.
The two main characters Sosuke and Ponyo are engaging kids, and there’s a delight in the world around them that should be infectious.
The environmental messages are there, but not overdone, and mostly left to the viewer’s interpretation. The Devonian sealife, including at least a couple of fine Dunkleosteus, used to represent nature being out of balance are beautifully rendered, and probably make Ponyo a favourite among palaeontologists.
As noted earlier, Ponyo looks fantastic, the Japanese voice cast deliver solid performances, and are well supported by the Joe Hisaishi score (as is usually the case for Miyazaki’s films).
So there’s a lot to like about Ponyo, but for me it’s a good film not a great one.
That said, it says a lot for Miyazaki’s talent as a director that one of his films being “merely” good feels like a disappointment. If you haven’t seen Ponyo yet I do recommend it at least once (this was a second viewing).