NYT's David Edelstein Reviews Ponyo

David Edelstein's review of Ponyo is now online, and it's a very good review. I'll print this part right away to help all the Ghibl Freaks feel better:

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.


Geoff N said...

Good review.

I actually didn't mind the "Porco Rosso" dub, mainly because I really liked Keaton in the film. I've also only ever seen "Pom Poko" subbed, when it was shown on TCM back in 2006. (the only Ghibli film I don't own on DVD for some reason, I really liked the movie)

As for the DVD's themselves, yeah, the Region 1 releases are largely disappointing. Although, I did like the feature on the "Spirited Away" DVD where it documented Miyazaki and Co. while they worked on the film, showing some of the meetings they had. Another good feature was "The Birth of Studio Ghibli" on the Nausicaa DVD. Sadly, these kinds of features are way too few and far between.

Oddly enough, the only DVD that ever had a making-of feature was "The Cat Returns" IIRC.

I wonder if the eventual "Ponyo" DVD release will actually have some bells and whistles attached to it, mirroring the increased effort they have put into advertising the film theatrically.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Whisper of the Heart dub was okay. And the Laputa dub is seriously not as bad as some people make it out to be.
I really hate the Porco Rosso and Kiki dubs though. I hope the dub for Ponyo is as good as this review says it is

Just8 said...

At the moment, Ponyo can be seen in the Netherlands in 25 theaters in a dubbed version (it's dubbed in Dutch) and in 4 theaters in the original Japanese version with Dutch subtitles.
In the Netherlands, usually all foreign movies are shown with subtitles; dubbed versions are only made when the movie is aimed at children. So it's clear that the Dutch distributor thinks that children are the primary target for Ponyo.
I went to see it in the Japanese version with subtitles this afternoon; it meant a bit more travel to get to the cinema but I'm glad I had the choice.
A lot has been said about Ponyo in this blog. I don't want to spoil anything; I'll just give some unnecessary advice: Go see it! In whatever version you can. Later you can watch it on DVD in Japanese, but trust me: you want to see this movie in a theater.

Katie Johnson said...

I have a random question to make- I'm getting worried because I can't find any theaters near me that are going to be showing ponyo. I live in the st louis, MO, and the closest one I could find said it was in Indiana. Should I be worried? Is it just too early?

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

That's a good question. I'm afraid I don't have an answer, but I'll try my best to find out. I would expect St. Louis to get Ponyo, but we must remember that it's opening on only 800 screens. Major Hollywood blockbusters open on thousands.

If Ponyo is successful, we're all hopeful that it will be expanded to more places across the country. Stay tuned.

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