09/24/2009 02:46 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Ponyo: Finally, A Great Family Movie

If you haven't seen it in the theatres yet, Ponyo, a new Japanese animated film by Hayao Miyasaki, is one of the rare gems of a movie that the whole family will enjoy, and that is worth seeing on the big screen.

Our family doesn't get out to see movies together very often. Between the different ages of the kids, and our different desires for film pleasure, we often end up splitting up and going our separate ways...or more likely, waiting till a film's released on DVD, or on TV so we can Tivo it. Occasionally, I can be convinced to go out to a family animated movie, but usually when it's over I feel the same way I feel after eating a bag of Cheetos--slightly assaulted and gross. And I find myself longing for the days of real movies, which then makes me feel old and cynical.

I'll go out by myself to see movies I really want to see (like I'm Not There). Or threaten to drag kids to movies I want them to see (like Julie and Julia, which I still haven't gotten to). We all went to see Marley and Me on Christmas Day because I am friends with the John Grogan, who wrote the book...but the book was so much better than the movie. So when a good movie comes out, suddenly there is no struggle, and before you know it, we are all sitting up front waiting for it to begin, and I have high hopes.

Ponyo does not disappoint. The animation is beyond beautiful, and makes the standard computer-generated stuff that is de rigueur these days look just plain cheap. It is art. It is joyfully created. It is sweet and funny without being sarcastic or cynical. There is no moment where the parents are laughing at the expense of their children, or a children's story is polluted with adult humor. And I don't think there is a single potty joke in the whole movie (though, trust me, I can enjoy those as much as anyone else).

It's a love story about 5-year-old kids. Which is kind of weird, but never inappropriate. The movie creates a feeling of dreaming come to life in animation, and more important, it leaves you with a feeling that is happy and thoughtful--like a good Japanese meal, one that makes you feel full and yet cleansed at the same time.

Ponyo... See it on the big screen while you can.

For more from Maria Rodale, go to Maria's Farm Country Kitchen.