Monday, February 19, 2018

Is 'My Little Pony: The Movie' for the kids or the bronies?

One has to wonder for whom the animated feature film My Little Pony: The Movie has been made. Ostensibly, it's for young kids, who count for double the ticket money with their parents in tow. But there's also a large market to be found in the "bronies" and "pegasisters," adults who have developed a cultish fandom around the animated series. My Little Pony: The Movie signals that the unrelentingly positive pastel ponies have hit the big time.

My Little Pony: The Movie, directed by Jayson Thiessen, has a remarkably retro vibe. The film is done in the classic 2-D animation style and embraces the flat, colorful, Saturday-morning cartoon look and feel. If part of the appeal of the My Little Pony renaissance is the nostalgic warm-fuzzies about childhood cartoons, then this film fully delivers. All we'd need is a bowl full of sugary cereal to complete the experience.

Storywise, the stakes start out quite low. Princess Twilight (Tara Strong) wants to throw the best Friendship Festival in Equestria, and her pony friends support her by singing about it. But all too soon their happy kingdom is invaded by the Storm King (Liev Schreiber), an ape/ox hybrid beast, his army led by fallen pony Tempest (Emily Blunt), a unicorn who lost her horn.

The Storm King is essentially a corporate fascist overlord, and he wants to steal the ponies' magic so he can control the weather, and everything else. Little Princess Twilight is the only one to escape, and so she sets off with her pals to ask for help from the Queen of the Hippogriffs (Uzo Aduba).

It's a classic children's story — parental figures in peril, a misfit group of pals, a hero's journey, and lots of songs along the way to underscore the pertinent message and pad out the running time. Truthfully, this film feels like four episodes of a cartoon strung together, and there are times where it truly drags.

The approach to animated features these days is to create technological spectacle, line up an all-star cast and pack the script with jokes for the accompanying parents to enjoy. But My Little Pony: The Movie zigs where others zag, throwing it back to the old school. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but for those who already love it, it'll be just right.

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