Before I get too high-flown, let me say that Ponyo is unsullied by Disney’s English-language casting of Miley Cyrus’s little sister as Ponyo and a Jonas brother as Sosuke—although Noah Lindsey Cyrus is a tad shrill. But Liam Neeson has gravely splendid pipes as Ponyo’s father, a once-human wizard who lives underwater and despises humankind for polluting the planet.
This is just the sort of thing we like to hear. I'd remind everyone that the dubs for Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle were excellent, and we should expect nothing less from Ponyo. The DVDs were lousy, naturally, because they were lower priorities for the Disney empire. That doesn't make me any less peeved (Porco Rosso, Whisper of the Heart, and Pom Poko were just wrecked by the dubs, and we're not going to touch Laputa and Kiki), but it does help to understand.
Here's another clip that made me think:
Even with its radiant colors and Joe Hisaishi’s score, a lush mixture of Snow White, Wagner, and Shostakovich, Ponyo could be insipid. Its magic comes from someplace deeper. We constantly see movies that contradict their own messages—celebrations of mavericks that are slavishly formulaic, testaments to selfless love suffused with snobbery and narcissism. But when Miyazaki makes films that decry the threat to the natural world, every molecule onscreen resonates with that belief—a belief that dissolves the boundaries between form and content.
Edelstein makes a great point about Miyazaki and what makes his work stand apart from standard Hollywood movies: authenticity. There's an emotional honesty present, a willingness to speak to you as equals. Compare this to the cold machinations of the multiplex blockbusters, which insult the intelligence of all but the most malleable and stupid. Hollywood product is soulless, cold, cynical and formulaic. It exists for no purpose other than to take your money. Miyazaki is something very different. He is an artist. He reaffirms your humanity.