Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's latest opus Ponyo is finally opening to us mere mortals this week, but a handful of reviewers have already shared their thoughts on the film online. I thought I'd go through and round up the reviews for you guys to help make sure you know whether you want to go see it.
CinemaVerdict: The dub goes "above and beyond the call of duty." As for the story, people unwilling to handle unimportant plotholes or occasional unrealism might go "a bit batty." That said, Ponyo "may not crack the upper echelon of Miyazaki's impressive career and parents may find it hard to keep their interest, but the kinds in the audience were mesmerized start to finish."
io9: "Amidst its stunning underwater scenes and raging storms, it's less a tale of romantic love than of strong, self-sufficient characters eager for new adventures," in sharp contrast to CinemaVerdict's assertion that it's more of a boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-wins-girl-back tale. io9 also notes that "Ponyo contains little of the moralizing of Princess Mononoke or Howl's Moving Castle," and that its character-driven story is "at once the film's greatest strength and its chief weakness."
TIME: I'll have to forgive them for using the phrase "Ani-Magic" (ahem), because they offer this line: "Miyazaki is more than a giant brain hatching grand schemes. At heart, at 67, he's a kid — to be precise, a little girl." "More important, his movies don't work on Hollywood logic. They are children's tales, and little kids rarely worry about the absence of secondary characters, let alone a story's connection to the nightly news. They want to be coaxed into another world, through words and pictures. Miyazaki has done that here. He's learned the secret language of children, and speaks to them as one gifted five-year-old to his enthralled peers."
Twitch: Dividing Miyazaki's work into "loud and eco-driven" (which won him on Oscar) and the "quiet and timid" works, Ponyo is Miyazaki traveling "back to his glory days, reviving the magic of films like Totoro, Porco Rosso, and Kiki's Delivery Service." Twitch also notes that unlike past films, Ponyo's style is "a little less detailed, but the animation is all the more complex and active because of it"-- not a bad choice for a film set in and around the ever-moving ocean.
To be fair to the opposition, an AP writer says that the film is "beautiful but surprisingly boring: a children's film that's at once overly simplistic and needlessly nonsensical." Considering it points out that the movie is a children's film, it then goes on to complain that it was released dubbed instead of subbed, chastising the choice as "safe." Can't say I agree with the sentiment (can the average six-year-old follow subtitles with ease? Seven? Eight?), but far be it from me to neglect a differing view.
All in all the consensus seems to be that Ponyo is a return to Miyazaki's simpler, more child-focused works like Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, and less like his more recent, slightly darker, more adult-friendly, (and, in the US, more popular) tales like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.
Does this change your expectations for the film? Does it change whether you'll go see it?
It doesn't for me-- I'm too much of an ocean nut (ask about my scuba diving!) to not be gung-ho about diving in as soon as it opens, especially after seeing footage at Comic-Con.