Roger Ebert's 4-Star review of Ponyo is available here. I have to admit, I was slightly concerned whether Mr. Ebert would enjoy Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, as Howl's Moving Castle left him somewhat confused and nonplussed. This may be a simpler, more direct movie, but it still awash in the director's surrealism, and many other movie critics are coming away confused. But there should be no need to worry. Most movie "critics" only hustle the PR racket, and like insecure teenagers, are obsessed with the approval and acceptance of the popular crowd. Roger Ebert is a scholar of film criticism, a noble art.
I also never tire of pointing out that Roger Ebert was the first major American film critic to champion Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. It was his essays for "Great Movies" that introduced me to My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies. And it's no stretch of language nor flights of the imagination when I say that I truly would not have pursued these great filmmakers without those essays. If it weren't for "Great Movies," this Ghibli Blog would never exist.
So it is with great joy that Ponyo receives the most coveted of all thumbs-up. For animation lovers and Ghibli Freaks alike, Mr. Ebert is their champion. Long may he remain so.
This passage deserves to be bronzed and emblazed on plaques for every animation studio in the world (my emphasis in bold):
Do what you can to bring as many people to Ponyo this weekend. If you are a lover of traditional hand-drawn animation, this is your great moment. Your voice must be heard. 2009 could mark the great turnaround, if only you raise your voice.
This cannot help sounding like standard animated fare. But I have failed to evoke the wonder of Hayao Miyazaki’s artistry. This 68-year-old Japanese master continues to create animation drawn by hand, just as “Snow White” and “Pinocchio” were. There is a fluid, organic quality to his work that exposes the facile efficiency of CGI. And, my God! — his imagination!The film opens with a spellbinding, wordless sequence beneath the sea, showing floating jellyfish and scampering bottom-dwellers. The pastels of this scene make “Ponyo” one of the very rare movies where I want to sit in the front row, to drown in it. This is more than “artistry.” It is art.