Ponyo

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Ponyo Movie Poster Image
Miyazaki's stunning adventure is geared to younger kids.
  • G
  • 2009
  • 103 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 78 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 85 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids learn about the important of not polluting the environment and of not judging a book by its cover.

Positive Messages

The film's many messages -- most embodied in the main character of Sosuke -- include being open to change, taking care of your pets, being kind to the elderly, sharing with others, and being brave enough to face obstacles.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The movie's female characters are all quite brave, powerful, and strong -- especially Ponyo, her mother, and Lisa. Sosuke, only 5, is more responsible and selfless than some young adults. His love for Ponyo, both as a fish and then as a little girl, is remarkable, as is his determination to find his mother after the storm. He's also incredibly kind to the elderly ladies at the retirement home where his mother works. Sosuke takes to heart his mother's advice not to judge others by their appearance, which is why he's so willing to take care of Ponyo whether she's a fish or a girl.

Violence & Scariness

On a couple of occasions, Sosuke thinks Ponyo has died or is lost at sea. There's a tsunami, and things get a bit tense when Sosuke and his mom drive back to their cliffside home. When Ponyo finds his mom's car but not his mother, he begins to cry. For a while it's also unclear whether Sosuke's father, a boat captain, has survived the storm. The waves that turn into fish could scare very young children. Some little kids might also be confused about why Lisa leaves Sosuke and Ponyo during a dangerous storm.

Sexy Stuff

Ponyo's parents embrace, and Ponyo plants a kiss on Sosuke's cheek and hugs him a lot. Discussions about true love, Ponyo and Sosuke growing up together and loving each other forever, etc.

Language

Ponyo's father calls humans "stupid," and Sosuke's mom sends a "Bug Off" message to her husband using Morse code. The word "weirdo" is also used a couple of times.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sosuke's mom drinks what looks like a beer after finding out that her husband won't be coming home from work. Later she appears to be "passed out" from exhaustion, but she could also be tipsy.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this stunning adventure from anime master Hayao Miyazaki is one of his most kid-friendly films to date, with strong characters and positive messages. There's little violence, although a few scenes during and after a climactic storm may disturb the youngest viewers. Some scenes in which parents and other characters seem to be missing might also be upsetting. Parents may be put off by the idea that two 5-year-old characters must at one point fend for themselves without supervision -- but this is, after all, a fairy tale-like story.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4 and 6 year old Written bytlanderson August 16, 2009

Not for 6 and below

In my opinion, this movie is not acceptable for age 6 and below. I would say it should be for older children only. There are several very scary scenes. Addition... Continue reading
Parent of a 4 and 4 year old Written byandsoitgoes August 19, 2009
Fantastic. My children have loved one of Miyazaki's earliest films, My Neighbor Totoro, since they were 2. This was no different. The story was simple... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bytricianguyenn February 8, 2012

Stupid movie.

Even though a lot of children might like it this is not the movie for me. I hate it.
Teen, 17 years old Written byBlue-Bunny September 10, 2011

Adorable anime from the mind of Miyazaki...

Although not quite as great as My Neighbor Totoro or Spirited Away, Miyazaki still delivered a promising movie. Ponyo was cute and charming, the animation was b... Continue reading

What's the story?

Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid tale, PONYO follows a goldfish princess named Brunhilde (voiced by Noah Lindsey Cyrus) who wants to explore beyond the sea. When she ends up nearly lifeless on the shore of a small oceanfront village, 5-year-old Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) rescues her, renames her Ponyo, and vows to take care of her. Ponyo's father, an undersea sorcerer who seems human (Liam Neeson), recaptures her -- but Ponyo is determined to use her father's magic to turn into a girl and return to Sosuke. By unleashing her powers, Ponyo does transform into a girl, but she also disrupts the balance of nature and causes a tsunami that nearly destroys Sosuke and his mother Lisa's (Tina Fey) village.

Is it any good?

This is a classic Miyazaki film, from the enchanting anime style to the recurring theme of humanity's relationship with our surroundings (in this case, the sea). You just have to overlook the Disneyfication of the voice casting (you can just picture the pitch meeting: "We'll get Miley's little sister and the Jonases' little brother!). Once again, there are several unmistakably strong female characters here: Ponyo is quite literally a force of nature, and her mother the ocean queen (Cate Blanchett) is even more powerful. Plus there's Sosuke's mom and the trio of elderly women she tends to (Cloris Leachman, Betty White, and Lily Tomlin), who form a sort of chorus for the film. And there is, at the heart of the Ponyo (and every Miyazaki story), a hero's journey.

American audiences unfamiliar with anime or Miyazaki's work may not "get" the movie's magical realism or the utter lack of pop culture references and big musical numbers. Ponyo is just like a real 5-year-old girl -- in awe of the world, adventurous, hilarious. Sosuke, on the other hand, is wise beyond his years, courageous, responsible, and loving. Those who dive in to Miyazaki's world will be rewarded with a humorous, touching fable that will leave young children wide-eyed, although possibly demanding ham (you'll see!).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Sosuke and Ponyo's journey to be together. What obstacles did they each have to overcome, and what sacrifices (if any) did they each have to make? Is it strange that Sosuke and Ponyo are 5, instead of teenagers?

  • Miyazaki loosely based this story on Hans Christian Andersen's original Little Mermaid fairy tale. How does this version of the story compare to the Disney movie?

  • Families who want to learn more about anime may want to screen Miyazaki's other films together. How are they similar to each other, and how are they different from most American-made animated movies?

Movie details

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