Who's In It: The voices of Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neason, Jennessa Rose, Lily Tomlin, Betty White
The Basics: A five-year-old Japanese boy playing in the ocean underneath his home on a cliff discovers a strange little female goldfish/mermaid-like creature with a human face. He names her Ponyo and she quickly becomes very interested in growing feet and hands so that she can run across the tops of whale-sized fish and bounce around on dry land and eat ham. In fact, she does a lot of exuberantly happy yelling about her new favorite pork food, frequently interrupting other people's conversations with shouts of, "HAAAAAAHHHMMM!" Then her worrying, Type-A, control-freak wizard father hatches a plan to return her to the ocean even as her giantess Spirit of Nature mother assesses the situation and says, "Whatever, man. Let the little lady be free." That's sort of a paraphrase, but the gist is right on.
What's The Deal: Let's say you have a five-year-old child who's not all caught up in the details of boring, mundane reality. Here's that kid's new favorite movie. Let's also say that, as a parent, you still get high. This is also your new favorite movie. It's as psychedelic and weird as you could ask for, but still maintains a very innocent, child's-eye view of how the world works. In fact, it's almost as though a child wrote it, since the narrative works on a very "and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened" level, going off on tangents that rarely adhere to adult rules of logic.
But It Wasn't A Little Kid Who Wrote It. It Was Japanese Animation Demi-God Hayao Miyazaki:
This legend never makes the same movie twice but you always know it's him behind the wheel. (Hence all that trippy-for-its-own-sake imagery like a tiny fish-girl asleep in a bubble riding on top of an unidentified blobby sea creature.) Sometimes they're for older audiences like Princess Mononoke
and other times it's a new children's classic like My Neighbor Totoro
, but they're always innovative and never dull, the glass of cool water you've been needing after trudging through the boredom-desert of movies like Ice Age 3
Stay For The Credits: So you can hear both the English language version of the wacky title song and the even weirder Radio Disney-esque "hip-hop" remix of the same song. Of course then what you'll want to do after that is check out all the hilarious YouTube clips of four-year-olds sing-yelling the song in Japanese.