By RHCPfan24 7 Comments
There is no denying the fact that Ponyo is a beautiful film. The 2D animation is hand-drawn and bursting with color and life. It is one of the most attractive artistic visions I have seen in a film this year. Nonetheless, something seemed "off" with it. It sits in a tough spotlight considering Spirited Away is a masterpiece in my eyes, one of the best animated films of the decade.
The voice talent is stellar, though. A boy named Sosuke (Frankie Jonas, brother of Jonas Brothers, ugh) meets a small goldfish with a human head on the shore by his head. Her name is Ponyo and she is voiced by Noah Cyrus, sister to Miley (double ugh). Nonetheless, there is still some great talent that overshadows the names of these two. Matt Damon and Tina Fey are the parents for Sosuke and they give the film a great personality, even if their American accent really counters the landscape. Ponyo's parents are portrayed by Liam Neeson and Cate Blanchett. Cate has a very ethereal, God-like aura while Neeson is a troubled dad with some funky hair. Neeson's character does not look like his real life self at all but he still manages to pull it off, speaking to his talent. Betty White, Cloris Leachman and Lily Tomlin all give voices to a group of elderly women who are frequently seen throughout the film. Many of their remarks are usually funny and show a big counter to the youth that is part of the two protagonists. Actually, the two young actors are fine in their respective parts but their last names are so past the saturation limit that my surprise was unfortunately mitigated.
The animation is obviously beautiful and stunning and there really is no need for description besides seeing it for yourself. The one thing that left me with a strange impression of the film was its message of love. The conflict in the film is if Sosuke will love Ponyo, even at the tender young age of five. I found this to be strange and the true meaning of love does not come to a person until much later. The fact that the whole world hung in the balance of his decision did not make anything more settling. I believe the meaning of love that this film was trying to convey was not truly a romantic form but more of a responsible, caring love. In that sense, the message was affectionate, but still odd to have such young characters as its subject. There was also a message of conservation that never really was realized or given much context in the end. Add the grating, childish song at the end credits and my impression was less than impeccable.
Despite these gripes, Ponyo is certainly a fine film. The animation is enough to warrant a watch. It is just not as transcending or ambitious as Hayao Miyazaki's other work.
From the director of Superbad and boasting such regulars as Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, one would expect Adventureland to be filled with raunchy, laugh-a-minute humor akin to the previous work. However, Adventureland is not that type of film at all, instead opting for a coming-of-age film with not so much humor as a heartfelt, entertaining story. There are certainly laughs to be had but the real value of this movie lies beyond that.
Set in 1987, the movie is the story of James Brennan (, a recent college graduate who spends his summer before grad school working at Adventureland, a seedy yet vibrant theme park to get him some money. Jesse Eisenberg plays James and he is in a mix between Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate and Michael Cera in, well, any Michael Cera movie. He actually pulls the "George Michael attitude" (Patent pending) rather well, maybe even better than the creator himself. Nonetheless, he meets Em, played by Kristen Stewart. She is excellent here and gives a sexy, emotional performance contrary to the movie most people know her by, Twilight. James also has multiple friends that he spends time with, such as Joel, a down-to-earth, philosophical dude played by Martin Starr as well as Frigo, a guy who does not talk to James as much as repeatedly punch him in the balls. Frigo is played by Matt Bush, otherwise know as the "guy in the AT&T commercials with the angry mom." Other characters include Lisa P, played by a steaming Margarita Levieva, and Ryan Reynolds as Mike Connell. A mistake this movie makes is the presumption that Ryan Reynolds is cool, shown by his slow, chill stroll in his first scene. First of all, Ryan Reynolds is not, nor has been or will be, cool. Thankfully, the film's story does not view him as favorably by the end, a godsend in my eyes. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are the two employers of the park, and they are in their usual, hilarious self. Kristen is always quirky and funny in her own way and Bill boasts an extremely fake mustache as he screams at litterbugs around the park. Good times are had for all.
The romantic relationship that grows between James and Em is portrayed in a great, genuine fashion. A great scene in the beginning when Em drives James home from the theme park is filled with awkward glances and uncomfortable silences. Greg Mottola, the director, does a great job at establishing the feel and pace of a teenage relationship. The film, much like its character Lisa P, reaches its height in the mid-section when it is filled with joyous wonder and life. The true, faithful representation of late-1980s America is remarkable and filled with plenty of music, movie and cultural references. This perfectly complements the brewing romance and somewhat magical theme park that serves as a character of its own in the movie. It is a shame, then, that the movie falters a little in the second half. When a foreign conflict arises that breaks the flow of the peace, the film resorts to a few cliches and filler dialogue before getting back on track. Thankfully, it does. The last few scenes are nice, even if the ending is somewhat strange.
Unlike Stewart's other "work," Twilight, Adventureland is not a parable for abstinence. In fact, it is the opposite. While I have no problem with that personally, it is weird for the film to end on such a note of this message. It should have been a mid-film event and the ending should have been modified to something else, less about sex and more about love. After all, "intercourse," as James calls it, is not a true sign of love. But hey, its the 80's. Times were different....right?
All in all, Adventureland is a really touching and fine film that I enjoyed greatly. The message is a bit shaky and there are parts that drag but I would still call it one of the best comedies of the year, even if its genre is harder to distinguish than a clear-cut film like The Hangover. But as a story of young love and all the quirks that come with it, there hasn't been a movie like it in awhile.