The great ocean deep proves a natural canvas for Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, whose 2008 feature riffs on The Little Mermaid, albeit with the distinctly Miyazaki-an twist that the mermaid princess is an anthropomorphic goldfish with magical powers, and her handsome prince is a five-year-old schoolboy still in full possession of his baby teeth. The U.S. version of Ponyo has been dubbed into English and adapted by E.T. screenwriter Melissa. (Pixar guru John Lasseter also assisted.) The appeal of Ponyo is hardly limited to the Romper Room set. It’s a movie for anyone who, like Miyazaki himself, can still happily commune with his inner five-year-old. Like much of Miyazaki’s work, the film carries an unsubtle environmental message about the littering and overharvesting of the ocean. Yet, as he glances at the world once more through a child’s wide, unspoiled eyes, Miyazaki seems to find hope for renewal. Movie screens at midnight. (G) SCOTT FOUNDAS

Fri., Dec. 17; Sat., Dec. 18, 2010