Hayao Miyazaki further postpones his announced retirement three feature films earlier, and appears to reverse the slippage of his hand-drawn purism into corner-cutting computer animation, reverting to a simpler, less congested style than in Spirited Away and even more Howl’s Moving Castle. His famous sensitivity to nature is immediately on display with the plunge into a teeming underwater world dominated at first by jellyfish and soon turning up a school of human-headed wigglies identified eventually as goldfish, one of whom nurses an overwhelming urge to become head-to-toe human (which means, high on the list, to eat ham) and to escape the dominion of her inexplicably humanoid father: “If you could only remain innocent and pure forever.” Some lip service gets paid to the precarious ecological balance, but no narrative developments quite live up to the apocalyptic rhetoric. A modest fairy tale of personal liberation (fashioned loosely after The Little Mermaid of Hans Christian Andersen), with its ambiguous father figures and idealized mothers, proves nevertheless to be compelling enough on its own; and the sustained climax rises sufficiently high with the coming of a typhoon, the slanting rain and bending wind, the swelling whalelike waves, the flooding of a landscape we have come to know well, the navigating of the roads by fish in place of cars, and the presto-change-o transformation of a toy boat into a serviceable little putt-putt to navigate the surface. With the voices of Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Noah Cyrus (little sister of Miley), and Frankie Jonas (little brother of the Jonas Brothers).
Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes