The Powerpuff Girls Movie
Entertaining cartoon-to-cinema transition stretched a little too thin.
Coming off the back of that trend a couple of years ago where Pokemon's example ensured every studio with a halfway popular cartoon series decided to churn out a "The Movie", the arrival of The Powerpuff Girls Movie was one of the few examples where people were generally interested. Like Spongebob Squarepants, The Powerpuff Girls gained quite a following not just among the ickle kiddies at whom it initially appears aimed at, but also a substantial number of adults (myself included) who appreciated the odd risque gag transparent to the youngsters and the sheer general lunacy of the plots.
With the series already well established, The Powerpuff Girls takes the now popular "year zero" approach of going back to detail events taking place before the series; in this case how the girls came into being and their struggle to be accepted by the people of Townsville. We also bear witness to the girl's first encounter with Jojo, soon to become Mojo Jojo and the series' most popular and frankly demented villain. Viewers of the TV series will know that Professor Utonium created the girls by mixing sugar, spice and a healthy dose of "Chemical X", and although initially the perfect trio of little girls they are soon on the receiving end of some major civil hatred when a game of superpower-enhanced "tag" leaves half the city in ruins.
Immediately outcast by polite society the girls struggle to understand the reasons why the residents of Townsville won't accept them, until that is they are saved from a back-alley mugging by a certain monkey named Jojo. Like the girls Jojo is on the receiving end of local prejudice because of his unusually developed brain (hidden discreetly under a brown paper bag), and so he welcomes them with open arms and suggests they help him in a plan that will make the city better and show the residents just how valuable they are to the community. Being sweet-natured little girls eager to please Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup agree to help, but could Jojo's intentions be less than honest? Well, what do you think?
There's plenty here for fans of the series to enjoy, and pretty much every character they've encountered gets some screen time. It's nice to see a little more interaction between the girls and their father, but at the end of the day it's really the titanic struggle between the girls and Jojo you're paying to see. There may be plenty of honourable themes in there that come as standard with kiddy pics: acceptance of others, the responsibility that comes with power etc, etc, etc, but when push comes to shove The Powerpuff Girls have always been about kicking the shit out of bad guys in as child-friendly a fashion as is possible, usually with each punch or kick freeze framed against a sparkling, dayglo background. Does the movie deliver on this count? Well yes and no.
The main problem is that like most of these cartoon-to-movie affairs, The Powerpuff Girls Movie is essentially a single episode's worth of material padded to fill 80 minutes of cinema time. There's plenty of ass-kicking to be had and no mistake, but the pacing is all wrong and it all comes in an avalanche at the end. As a result, and despite the fairly brisk runtime, there are areas of the picture that feel a little stretched, and while you might expect it of some other cash-in franchises it comes as a slight disappointment when you have a licence as popular and inventive as this one. Fortunately the powers that be have seen fit to include as much of Jojo as possible, and when you're dealing with one of the most left field cartoon villains in history that's most definitely a good thing.
In that respect The Powerpuff Girls Movie will deliver what the fans are after, but I'd be surprised if any of them watched this picture and weren't slightly disappointed. Artistically things are exactly as you'd expect, and some of the framing is absolute genius. Not only does the mad monkey's transformation from Jojo to Mojo Jojo beat Anakin's Vader shift hands down, but his stylishly composed entrance is right up there with David Prowse's introduction in Episode IV. As disappointingly bland as the overall package may be, if you have moments like that and can effectively preach lessons in responsibility that the likes of George Bush could do well to observe things can't all be bad, and indeed they are not. It's just that we'd hoped for a little more.
I award this movie 3 out of 5 Units We Use
Tara Strong (Bubbles)
Elizabeth Daily (Buttercup)
Roger Jackson (Mojo Jojo)
Tom Kane (Professor Utonium)