THE POWERPUFF GIRLS
Director: Craig McCracken
Cast: The voices of Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong, Elizabeth Daily, Tom Kane, Roger L. Jackson, Tom Kenny, Jennifer Hale
MPAA Rating: (for non-stop frenetic animated action)
Running Time: 1:27
Release Date: 7/3/02
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Review by Mark Dujsik
Watching The Powerpuff Girls, my mind kept returning to one anecdote for comparison: the cartoon in Japan that gave people seizures. The movie is simultaneously a rapid-fire feast of repetitive jokes and images for kids accustomed to getting useless information at alarmingly fast rates and a dragged-out big screen adaptation of a popular TV series. Unlike Roger Ebert’s experience reviewing Scooby-Doo, I do not find myself unprepared to write a review of this movie. I have seen and enjoyed "The Powerpuff Girls" on television a few times and consider it an amusing piece of retro entertainment. I would never attempt to pass myself off as an expert on the subject—knowing the ins and outs of every background character and villain the heroines have encountered or in what way the movie deters from the source material—but I do know that when a single Powerpuff adventure lasts about ten minutes on television and the movie runs over eighty minutes, you cannot simply extend the outline of the show to run eight times longer and make a successful motion picture.
The city of Townsville is under hard times. Criminals run rampant through the streets and no one is safe. Until one day, Professor Utonium (voice of Tom Kane) begins an experiment to create something good for the town. Using sugar, spice, and, yes, everything nice, he is surprised to discover that is what little girls are actually made of when the formula produces three: Blossom (voice of Cathy Cavadini), Bubbles (voice of Tara Strong), and Buttercup (voice of Elizabeth Daily). During the experiment, the Professor also accidentally added another ingredient: the mysterious Chemical X. Because the unintended component, the girls have superpowers, which come as a great help around the house. But the Professor wants them to live a normal life and sends them to school like any good parent. Whatever trouble kids are prone to cause is heightened to the nth degree with the girls, and after a game of tag goes horribly awry, the entire city hates them. The Professor is arrested as an accomplice to mass destruction, leaving the girls helpless to the wiles of one of Utonium’s abandoned creations, the megalomaniacal Mojo Jojo (voice of Roger L. Jackson).
The style of the show and movie combines the look and feel of cartoon superheroes from the 60s and 70s and Japanese anime aimed at kids but occasionally induces it with a more mature sense of humor. The characters are composed of primary shapes (rectangles, ovals, circles, squares, etc.) and sharp, oblique lines that give the animation a crude but affectionately old-fashioned look. The movie has allowed the filmmakers to indulge in a few animation tricks that couldn’t have been done on TV, so 3-D animation is strewn within the flat, 2-D world. The intermingling works and offers a unique style that looks antiquated but feels fresh. At times the redundancy of the animation is apparent; we know we’ve seen the characters do certain actions before and that the animation has been recycled into a different scene. At other times, the camera stays fixed on a repeating loop of action (note that during one conversation with Jojo, the girls stand blinking and blank-faced as Jojo stays off-camera).
Little details like this may have remained unnoticed except that the material doesn’t have enough to qualify a feature-length running time. After a long, excessive exposition which provides the movie’s best comic moments, we’re given the most destructive game of tag ever captured on screen. The sequence is quite funny in little bursts, but the action within it is so repetitive, it grows tiresome. The punch line, however—a blunt, childish newspaper headline—is priceless. Then the plot resumes giving us yet more exposition for the turn of events in the second act, which is followed by the reiteration of said exposition by a different character. Eventually, the third act twist appears, and things for the girls hit their lowest. After more reiteration of things we’ve already seen, the action picks up, and the movie turns into a visceral assault of bright colors and sight-gags and bright flashes of light and monkeys falling from the sky. This is where the Japanese seizure cartoon analogy comes in handy.
You either like the Powerpuff Girls or you have no interest or reason to see The Powerpuff Girls. If you’re a huge fan, maybe an hour and twenty minute episode of the show will do you good. If you know nothing about these characters, the movie is not the best way to be introduced. As for myself, I was generally amused but still believe these adventures are best taken in short but sweet doses.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.