What a sweet movie. I was unaware that goodfish looked like weird little girls in dresses, but from beginning to end, it was sweet, non-threatening, quirky, and beautiful-- entirely gorgeous. If you're going into this expecting Princess Mononoke, though, be warned-- it's much closer to My Neighbor Totoro in theme and complexity. Which is fine; it's a kid's story, and I'm glad it'll be around when I have kids.
It's (very) loosely based on The Little Mermaid, but when I say 'loosely', I mean it's like they took the extreme basic ideas and ran with them. A girl of the sea who wants to be a human? Check. A dad who doesn't want her to? Check. A supernatural sea-woman with magical powers? Check. Seafoam if she fails? Check. Everything else is new. And sweet. And there's alot going on, but the primary POV characters are five years old, and most of it doesn't really affect them so much as it affects the world around them.
Ponyo is a little goldfish who gets lost and washes up on shore, where she's rescued by a little boy named Sasuke. While with him, he cuts his finger, which she heals with a lick, but tasting human blood starts a transformation-- it unlocks all the primal power inside her, knocks nature out of balance, and lets her have capricious five-year-old control over the magics. It means she can will herself into having arms and legs and being a girl (although whenever she uses magic, she looks more like a frog muppet with chicken legs), and then she and her hundreds of sisters can cause a horrible tsunami that almost wipes out the town while she goes in search of Sasuke. Because she's fallen in love with him, in that entirely pure way that only kids can love. Most of the rest of the movie is them being kids while they look for Sasuke's mom and have adventures in cuteness; Ponyo's dad flips out a little at the imbalance in nature, but her mom, a huge magical sea goddess, finds it sweet and amusing, and convinces him to let it play out. They save Sasuke's mom and all the old ladies she's in charge of, and give the kids a choice: If Sasuke will love her as a girl or a fish, she'll be allowed to make the choice between the two, but she can't be both like she is now. She, of course, chooses him, and everything's fine.
- on the radio to Sasuke's dad on the ship: "HAM!"
- during her transformation: "TEETH!"
- when she finds him and wraps herself around his head and stays there.
- when teh tide is up to his door, and while they're figuring out what to do, an octopus is sidling into the house.
- "For milk!" and the Angry Baby.
- the theme song, which I want to sing to my kids. When I have them.