Verdict: Pure grrrl
Details: Voices by Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong and Elizabeth Daily. Directed by Craig McCracken. Rated PG for non-stop frenetic animated action. One hour, 27 minutes.
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Review: In a full-length cartoon packed with remarkable moments, the most remarkable in The Cartoon Network's big-screen “The Powerpuff Girls Movie” might well take place in isolation on a far-away asteroid.
In effect, our kindergarten super heroines in skirts — the level-headed Blossom, the emotionally fragile Bubbles and the feisty fireball Buttercup — have been sentenced to time out. That's because without realizing it, they've been bad. The sinister simian Mojo Jojo duped them into helping him seize the mega-city Townsville and now their surrogate father, Professor Utonium, is ambivalent to their pleadings of innocence. “I don't know who to believe,” he says before lowering the big, verbal boom of disappointment. “I thought you were good! ”
As Mojo continues his quest to be “king, supreme leader and all-around dictator,” the psychologically zapped girls fly off alone to that cold, rock-hard asteroid where their ids and egos grapple in a moral meltdown.
Bubbles' tear ducts are in full flow as Blossom and Buttercup bicker over who's to blame. In seconds we've left the realm of two-dimensional cartoon characters and entered a world that is moving and nuanced and alive. The scene is a jewel on its own terms, but also powerfully illustrates how fully in tune the “Powerpuff Girls” creators are with the dreams and fears of their core audience.
Maybe it doesn't sound like a laugh-a-minute cartoon, but “Powerpuff Girls” is frequently fitfully funny. Though at least one of its scenes overstays its welcome — a destructive game of tag seems to go on forever — this movie is one of the few American creations that is both gleeful pop culture and exquisite high art. It's Akira Kurosawa with a wry sense of humor, Ingmar Bergman with a penchant for a good pickle joke.
It would be “The Lion King” if “The Lion King” were cut from the cloth of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
First created by Craig McCracken in 1998, these crimefighting puffs are part of the Cartoon Network's stable of inventive, glorious two-dimensional 'toons, including “Dexter's Laboratory” and “Samurai Jack.” The girls are less hip with the public than, say, today's trendy mind-tripper “SpongeBob SquarePants,” but their movie, costing a healthy $25 million, is pure “Powerpuff” gold. It easily surpasses the heap of “Pokémon” tripe inflicted upon the world's youth and all those recent Disney misfires. Can't forget “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”?
The intricate drawings emanate 1950s futuristic pizzazz like a David Hockney scenescape. The inspired script is both sinfully cynical and aw-shucks sweet.
It all starts at the beginning where square-jawed Professor Utonium, in an attempt to counter Townsville's growing unsavouriness, mixes sugar, spice and everything nice. An accident adds in a dose of the mysterious Chemical X and a trio of little girls with super superpowers is born. They not only fly, but their laser eyes cleanly slice the crusts off their PB&J sandwiches.
Like “Spider-Man,” the puffs slowly realize their strengths and confront one of life's nastier realities — those powers not only make them super, but make them freaks in the public's eyes.
That Chemical X accident also turns the professor's labmonkey into the massive-brained Mojo Jojo, whose scheme to overtake Townsville is hidden within his new “Help The Town and Make It a Better Place Machine.”
You gotta love a chimp whose brain synapses run at a blistering blur.
“Do not continue with your ramblings,” he shouts to the mutinous simian army he created to topple Townsville. “For my ramblings are the ramblings to be obeyed . . . It was I who laid the original plan and set it into motion. Don't you see? All you monkeys are my plan. So your plans are my plans because you made plans and my plan was to make you. But I never planned for my plans to make plans to stop my plan!”
Got that? Now bow down.
Bob Longino, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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