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Yesterday was a little bit of a Daddy-Daughter day. I took Isabella to go see the new movie, Ponyo - a Japanese film brought to us by our wonderful friends at Disney about a fish with a human head (apparently the daughter of a man and a sea-goddess?) who wields magic and decides to become human. While the movie was cute, all I have to say is thank God little kids don't grasp the concept of plot-holes.

Phew. Somewhere in the middle of all the 'Humans are filthy creatures who do nothing but pollute the oceans' propoganda, there was a story about a Willy Wonka look-alike who kept his children imprisoned in a ship beneath the sea and ruthlessly hunted them down if they escaped - for their own good, of course. He, in the end, had a tremendous heart, but just wore a bit too much rouge.

Ponyo's mother was an absentee mother, apparently. I mean, you can't be around all that much when you are a goddess. There're ships who've lost their power to turn back on, you know.

And bad parents seemed to be the theme of the day. Heck, the mother of the main character - a little boy whose name I forget - nearly drives off a cliff every time they hit the road, doesn't enforce the seat belt laws with her 5 year old (in the front seat of her car with no child seat, I might add), and risks not only her life, but the life of her son as she races a tidal wave just so she can get to her house - even though there's been an evacuation ordered (but not required, she points out). Oh, and she does all this in what appears to be a 'Smart Car'.

For those of you not familiar with a 'Smart Car', imagine the smallest car you can. Okay, got that image in your head? Now, imagine that car throws-up another car. That regurgitated smaller car is a 'Smart Car'. They look like the sheer force of the wind from travelling more than 30 mph would fold them like an accordion.

She should be imprisoned just for putting her son in one of those.

But it gets better. Shortly after making this imperative race to her home, she decides she needs to go back to the Senior Center she just left. This Senior Center is where she works and is, by the way, already staffed by a whole crew of responsible caregivers. Once she decides to do this, she insists that her son and Ponyo stay home. The idiocy of this move is explained in the first sentence to her son, "I know you're only five years old, but I know you'll do the right thing."

Huh? You're going to leave 2 five-year-olds alone in a house in a raging storm so that you can go back to a place - that is fully staffed - to help out? This is a good plan? Especially after pointing out that your house, with its own generator, gas tank, and water tank, will be the lone light - a beacon in the storm - thereby, drawing refugees and other complete strangers to it. Lady, hero you are not. Endangerment to your child and others? Hell yes.

In the end, all the madness is cast aside when the sea-goddess and Willy Wonka get together and decide that, in order to see if they should let Ponyo become a full human, they need to test the boy's love for her. This is supposed to be the ultimate test of love. They gather the boy's mom, all the old people (voiced by Betty White!), and spook the crap out of the boy so he'll apparently crash into another skeptical old lady in a dramatic escape which looks successful...but isn't.

Then the test comes. What can it be? Will he have to lay his life on the line? Will he have to be willing to let her go? Will he have to give up his family? Will he have to answer the question, "Will you love her no matter what?"

Wait. What? It was the last one? That's not a test! Who the hell can't pass that?

At that point, you know, the movie ended and stuff. My daughter loved it, of course, but she's 4. I expect her to accept these things for a few more years. The Ponyo character was cute, so that's all that matters. In fact, we had an imaginary Ponyo hanging out with Isabella all day yesterday. She even ate all of Bella's leftover McNuggets and french fries.

Okay, fine, that was me.

Final Day!!!: Order Paranoia today. For the month of August, I will donate $1 per copy of Paranoia sold to the Twin Towers Orphan Fund (www.ttof.org). See www.jebraun.com for more details.

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I think the film's director,

I think the film's director, Miyazaki, is nowadays less interested in the intricacies of plot, and more interested in the intricacies of things like how to draw the ocean in a really interesting way. As his country's most successful film director, he can afford to, and as a fellow artist of lines-on-paper, I can understand him. Where that leaves his audience however is another matter! His 90s film 'My Neighbor Totoro' is aimed at the same audience as 'Ponyo' but has a better story, which you'll appreciate, and I am pretty sure your daughter will like it as much or more than 'Ponyo'.

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Artistically

Artistically, it was excellent - a fairly refreshing step away from the glut of ever-more-realistic CGI movies. I can't remember the last animated movie I saw that wasn't Pixar or Dreamworks. So, I can appreciate that..and, as I said, as far as the children go, they won't notice or care about the story to that extent. Thanks for the tip on 'My Neighbor Totoro'. I'll have to look into it! I've watched the Care Bears Journey to Joke-a-Lot, so many times, I love an opportunity to throw something else into the mix!