Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
100 Greatest Videos Games Of All Time
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Empire Visits The Hobbit's VFX Team
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
4Music's Size Does Matter
Introducing your new favourite app
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
U
Cast
Cate Blanchett
Noah Cyrus
Matt Damon
Tina Fey
Frankie Jonas
Cloris Leachman
Liam Neeson
Lily Tomlin
Betty White.
Directors
Hayao Miyazaki.
Screenwriters
Melissa Mathison
Hayao Miyazaki.
Running Time
103 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar
3 Star Empire Rating
Life Of Crime
3 Star Empire Rating
Internet's Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz, The
4 Star Empire Rating
A Walk Among The Tombstones
4 Star Empire Rating
Wish I Was Here
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Two Days, One Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating

Ponyo On The Cliff
It’s a wonderful life aquatic…


submit to reddit


Plot
Ponyo (Cyrus), half-human, half-fish, escapes from her father, marine lord Fujimoto (Neeson), and is adopted by young Sosuke (Jonas). But with the balance of the elements thrown askew, the natural world begins to go wonky.


Review
Ponyo On The Cliff
Browse more images »
While making a rare public appearance recently, Hayao Miyazaki was asked what it was like to run the only animation studio still specialising in hand-drawn films, while all around pixels rule supreme. The white-haired emperor of Studio Ghibli paused, then sighed, then replied, “Like rowing a bark in a sea full of speed boats.”

Let’s be grateful, then, that he’s still slaving at the oars. His first film as director since 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle — which, perhaps due to being an adaptation of someone else’s story, felt murkily plotted and inert — Ponyo feels like pure Miyazaki, a return to Spirited Away form. Though the closest parallel is with My Neighbour Totoro, both being gentle, narratively simple (for Ghibli) fantasies in which children are befriended by magical creatures.

Here it’s an adorable fish-princess called Ponyo who yearns to be human. So, in a riff on Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid mythology, Miyazaki flits between two worlds: the underwater kingdom ruled by Bowie-a-like Fujimoto (Liam Neeson) and a seaside town in Japan, where Ponyo is adopted by five year-old Sosuke (Frankie Jonas). The former is where the director gets to really cut loose — and judging by his vivid work here, as well as his predilection for speed-boat similes, he’s been long obsessed with the ocean blue. In contrast to the clean tropical waters of Finding Nemo or Disney’s take on The Little Mermaid, the seabed here is a chaotic, ghostly and alien place, teeming with wriggling beasties and weirdly looming shapes. There’s an edgy beauty that sticks in the mind, most of all in the sequence where Miyazaki unleashes a raging tsunami on the Japanese shore.

There’s an ecological agenda, for sure — Fujimoto quietly curses mankind’s treatment of the sea, while early on Ponyo gets trapped in a nightmarish fishing net crammed with choking fish and garbage — but Miyazaki never lets it overwhelm his story. This is as much an acutely observed portrait of a family as a fantasy epic, and two of the most memorable scenes involve nothing grander than a mother serving up dinner and the young heroes placating a disturbed baby. Not something you’d see in an Ice Age sequel.

The voice casting for the dubbed Western version is a little hit and miss — Tina Fey is spot-on as the mum, but Neeson and Blanchett are a little first-base (is there anywhere Neeson hasn’t been king of?). Also, some parts may skew too young for some tastes, not least the icky Auto-Tuned anthem that plays over the end credits. That said, there is, as always with Ghibli, a sadness mingled with the sweetness, and there’s no arguing with the eye-boggling undersea visuals — this is the stuff James Cameron dreams about when he’s had too much Gruyère.


Verdict
Miyazaki’s back, and still a force of nature. A weird, wonderful aquatic romp, Ponyo is also a meditation on the state of this blue planet. Catch it.


Reviewed by Nick de Semlyen

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Ponyo On The Cliff
Empire Star Rating

Excellent

I saw the Japanese version with English Subtitles, so I can't comment on the quality of the voice acting, but the film was excellent: pure Miyazaki. Better than Howl's Moving Castle and Porco Rosso in my opinion. All the characters are excellent, apart from Fujimoto, whose scripted lines are a bit clunky towards the beginning. However his character does improve towards the end of the film. All in all, fantastic! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Elegy at 18:36, 22 December 2011 | Report This Post


Just a joy of a movie

Just a good entertaining movie. & I Just love this movie ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 22:17, 28 June 2010 | Report This Post


Seen Better Studio Ghibli Films.

I was looking forward to seeing Ponyo after seeing all the Studio Ghibli films but to find I was a little disappointed. Yes, the drawings are beautifully done as always but that's it really. The vocal talent is okay but Noah Cyrus voice got on my nerves very quickly and ruined her character. Hell, even the song at the end along with Frankie Jonas, was terrible that I had to switch it off! The storyline isn't fanastic, the last twenty minutes or so seemed rushed and there was no proper feeling li... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 10:00, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


Seen Better Studio Ghibli Films.

I was looking forward to seeing Ponyo after seeing all the Studio Ghibli films but to find I was a little disappointed. Yes, the drawings are beautifully done as always but that's it really. The vocal talent is okay but Noah Cyrus voice got on my nerves very quickly and ruined her character. Hell, even the song at the end along with Frankie Jonas, was terrible that I had to switch it off! The storyline isn't fanastic, the last twenty minutes or so seemed rushed and there was no proper feeling li... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 10:00, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Ponyo On The Cliff

L: elab49 So the general criticism seemed to be that it was aimed at the audience it intended to aim itself at and did that successfully? ote]   That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Although to be fair everything Pixar does is aimed at kids but is still magniferous. Ditto Spirited Away etc. Will let Miyazaki-san off this time though. ... More

Posted by David Somerset at 14:15, 23 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Ponyo On The Cliff

Well disappointed with this. I love Studio Ghibli and in particuliar the films Miyazaki directs but this, whilst looking absolutley amazing, was just pointless. There was no story. To quote a Family Guy cut-away gag, "There's no conflict in this movie". None whatsoever. Nothing happens. When the Sea Goddess tells Ponyo's father that Sōsuke will face a test to prove his love to Ponyo and if he succeeds the balance will be restored to the world I was waiting for... well some actual test of h... More

Posted by Vadersville at 10:25, 23 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Ponyo On The Cliff

So the general criticism seemed to be that it was aimed at the audience it intended to aim itself at and did that successfully? ... More

Posted by elab49 at 09:56, 23 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Ponyo On The Cliff

oite good. It wasn't as good as d AwayPrincess Mononoke was better than Moving CastleMy Neighbour Totoros about as good as Castle In The Skyr] o;only problem for me, as a grumpy old codger, was that it was a bit too slight, aimed too much at a younger audience; it didn't probe the unsettling recesses of darkness that d Awayt did, however, look amazing. I'd try and describe the scenes where the sea comes alive and goes furiously mental all over the shop but you're better off watc... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by David Somerset at 09:26, 23 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Ponyo On The Cliff

I'm with elab, it's clear from the outset that this is aimed squarely at the Totoro bracket, but I loved it. Miyazaki has this brilliant ability of capturing a sort of naivety/innocence in the characters in his films and making it seem like the most magical gift anyone could be blessed with. I thought Ponyo was brilliant. I don't think it's Miyazaki-light as some have said, I think it's just got a very clear audience. If I had to hack it to pieces, the only problem I can possibly find is that I... More

Posted by hiptobesquare_x at 01:39, 18 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Ponyo On The Cliff

L: Ethanial Just caught it. Didn't expect it to be Spirited Away, but hoped it'd be better than Howl's Moving Castle with al the critical acclaim it's garnered. How has it garnered this? I didn't care for Ponyo, she was annoying, as was the young boy. The poor driver reckless mother, the dull dad who played no part in the story what so ever, the lack of any tension or threat to anything, the awful Liam Neeson acting, the old woman who were useless at being important or entertain... More

Posted by elab49 at 21:06, 15 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Ponyo On The Cliff

L: Ethanial Just caught it. Didn't expect it to be Spirited Away, but hoped it'd be better than Howl's Moving Castle with al the critical acclaim it's garnered. How has it garnered this? I didn't care for Ponyo, she was annoying, as was the young boy. The poor driver reckless mother, the dull dad who played no part in the story what so ever, the lack of any tension or threat to anything, the awful Liam Neeson acting, the old woman who were useless at being important or entertai... More

Posted by Deviation at 20:41, 15 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Ponyo On The Cliff

Just caught it. Didn't expect it to be Spirited Away, but hoped it'd be better than Howl's Moving Castle with al the critical acclaim it's garnered. How has it garnered this? I didn't care for Ponyo, she was annoying, as was the young boy. The poor driver reckless mother, the dull dad who played no part in the story what so ever, the lack of any tension or threat to anything, the awful Liam Neeson acting, the old woman who were useless at being important or entertaining, it felt like... More

Posted by Ethanial at 17:17, 15 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Ponyo On The Cliff

r/Screenwriter:Miyazakiring (voices):yrus, Frankie Jonas, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson  psis 5-year old Sosuke (Jonas) discovers and befriends a goldfish named princess Ponyo (Cyrus) who wishes to become human, a dangerous imbalance will cause the earth to flood.  ew the help of the Pixar legend that is John Lasseter, Disney has returned to their roots as they bring back traditional 2D animation. To support this return, two films have been released within a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 16:23, 15 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: A Masterpiece

I wanted to see this but it's not showing at my local cinema ... More

Posted by white mage at 01:43, 14 February 2010 | Report This Post


A Masterpiece

Im giving this five stars because im ignoring the fact that it is English dubbed I havnt seen the subtitled version but this meant I could concentrate on the film I hope it was translated word for word. Im also ignoring the end credits song I dont know if there was a japanese version of that it made me laugh though anyhow a masterpiece is what Ponyo is I recommend for all the family. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 17:13, 13 February 2010 | Report This Post


A Masterpiece

Im giving this five stars because im ignoring the fact that it is English dubbed I havnt seen the subtitled version but this meant I could concentrate on the film I hope it was translated word for word. Im also ignoring the end credits song I dont know if there was a japanese version of that it made me laugh though anyhow a masterpiece is what Ponyo is I recommend for all the family. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 17:13, 13 February 2010 | Report This Post


Ponyo On The Cliff (2010)....?

why is it listed like this? I saw this film in Tokyo in 2008 - THE YEAR IT WAS RELEASED! anyhoo, nice little fairytale of a film, typical Ghibli with lush animation. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Snake-Eyes at 16:27, 11 February 2010 | Report This Post


Cute and sweet-natured animation but inherently weak plot-wise and a bit overlong

Just seen the subtitled version of this (don't care for dubbing) and it's got likable characters, simple and old-fashioned animation and a lovely score but the plot is where I have most of my issues - parts of it don't feel well developed, especially the magic of Ponyo's home underwater. It lacks a proper climax as well. Still, as it's aimed pretty squarely at kids, it's perfectly nice and diverting fun, just not Miyazaki's best. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sunnygirly2k4 at 17:07, 08 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Only just out??

This came here in Scandinavia last autumn. Not one of Miyazaki's best, but still a wonderful movie. It kind of reminded me of My neighbour Totoro, especially the character Ponyo, who is a spitting image of the younger sister in Totoro. Beautifully made, sweet, funny, sad, scary etc. What more can you ask from a film? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Heidi80 at 11:23, 08 February 2010 | Report This Post


Only just out??

I'm really surprised to see this review here - it's taken a long time to reach UK cinemas; I live in Japan now and it was just on TV two nights ago. Anyway, it's impossible not to recommend anything by Miyazaki, but this isn't his best film - four is a good rating. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mooncalf at 08:26, 08 February 2010 | Report This Post


SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Rogues Gallery: Powers Boothe
Sin City's Roark talks us through his most memorable baddies

Richard Attenborough: In Celebration
Saluting a man who made a lasting impact on cinema and beyond…

Exclusive: Luc Besson Talks Lucy
'There is no bullshit with Scarlett Johansson'

Video: Daniel Radcliffe Talks What If...
On Gordon Ramsay, swearing and date movies

The 24 Best Film-Related Ice Bucket Challenges
The viral craze that won’t quit takes in some of Hollywood’s finest

Who Shot First? The Complete List Of Star Wars Changes
An exhaustive chronology of George Lucas' post-release tinkering

Film Studies 101: A Film Buff's Guide To Movie Movements
Everything you need to know about cinema's key groups

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)