Reportedly the final film of legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, Ponyo isn't quite the masterwork one would hope he'd go out on—there's nothing quite as amazing here as the stuff in Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, or My Neighbor Totoro. But even when Miyazaki isn't at the top of his game, his stuff's still pretty great, and anybody watching Ponyo won't be disappointed. The film's a loose retelling of "The Little Mermaid," with a five-year-old boy, Sosuke, finding a weird-looking fish by his seaside home; deciding she's a goldfish, Sosuke adopts her, names her Ponyo, and soon discovers that she wants to become human—much to dismay of her father, who's some kind of crotchety old sea wizard.
The vibrant, pastel-colored Ponyo is dazzling to look at, and Miyazaki's fluid heartfelt animation is as impressive as ever. For the American version, Disney's also snagged Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, and Cate Blanchett for voiceover duties, so one could do worse as dubs go. But while Ponyo is totally enjoyable, and while it still has more of a soul than just about anything else currently in theaters, it lacks the punch of Miyazaki's best works. It's probably unfair to expect every Miyazaki film to be jaw-droppingly brilliant, but knowing that Ponyo, however solid it is, might be Miyazaki's last film? Well, it just makes one wish that the film had a tiny bit more to it, is all.