Take some sugar, spice, and everything nice, add some Chemical X, and stand back. When the smoke clears, you've got yourself three round-faced, big-eyed cuties who just happen to have a few superpowers. These are the Powerpuff Girls, and they've got their first movie, aptly named The Powerpuff Girls Movie.
Although The Powerpuff Girls is a hit on the Cartoon Network, the movie was my introduction to the trio, and I came away entertained but with some pretty deep reservations.
The story starts when the girls are created by Professor Utonium in his laboratory. The professor isn't trying to create superheroes. He is simply trying to come up with something sweet and lovable to counteract the rampant crime and evil in his hometown, Townsville. Much to his surprise, he succeeds, and names the redhead Blossom, because she is the first to open up to him; the blonde Bubbles, because she's bubbly, and the raven-haired one, the one with attitude, Buttercup, because it also begins with a B.
The Professor delights in the girls, loving everything about them, including their superpowers, but the rest of the world doesn't see the girls in the same way. When they trash the town playing a game of tag, they become a hunted trio. They are found and cossetted by a master-criminal monkey, Mojo Jojo, who tricks them into helping him with his plan to take over Townsville.
The Powerpuff Girls Movie delights in many ways. The animation, a combination of retro line drawings and Japanese anim , is a strangely refreshing 180-degree change from the lush, realistic animation of Disney and DreamWorks.
There also are many honest emotions expressed in the movie: the unconditional love of a parent, the frustrations of being different, the feelings of abandonment when Dad (the Professor) doesn't arrive on time to pick the girls up, the lack of experience the girls have in dealing with the world, the need to feel that they've made a parent proud. These are wonderfully subtle and well integrated into the story. Unfortunately, the level of violence in the movie is excessive, even though it's comic book violence. And when the little girls are enticed to jump into a volcano, I really got chills up my spine. I didn't like it, and from the reaction of the youngsters in the audience, they didn't either.
There were many 3 to 6-year-olds at the packed screening, and there was a lot of whimpering and crawling into laps during the battle. But they cheered when the villains were vanquished at the end, so I can only conclude that the television show is either less violent or violent in smaller doses.
Accompanying adults have little to enjoy, except for several references to Planet of the Apes. On the other hand, the movie's a little more than an hour long, so there isn't a lot of time to get bored.
The creators of The Powerpuff Girls Movie are on the right track. Many of the movie's elements are fun, the story moves right along, and having girls as action heroes is a nice change.
Having less violence in a children's film would be pleasant, too. Let's hope that's one change that comes soon.
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