Ponyo is a perfect example of minor material which is successful because of the excellent execution. Basically it’s a modern update of Anderson’s Little Mermaid with younger characters and the Disney-typical happy ending, which honestly doesn’t sound all that exiting. But what makes the movie work is the attention to detail and the enthusiasm it projects: from the lovely design of the house and the surrounding landscape, the well written characters and the near-perfect pacing to the happy but not saccharine ending that is uplifting without falling back on cheap tricks.
It’s a kid movie that manages to make even hardened grown-ups smile when they leave the cinema. Sure, you’ll know that the threat-potential in the movie was kinda low anyway, that not much happened plot wise and yet, in the end it’s still fun to watch again and again. Best of the recent Ghibli movies.