The Powerpuff Girls Movie

on July 03, 2002 by Annlee Ellingson
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   Like the Cartoon Network television show on which it's based, "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" is a confluence of kiddie entertainment, sophisticated wit and symbolic graphic design. On its most obvious level, "The Powerpuff Girls" is about three little superpowered girls who perpetually save the city of Townsville from an array of bad guys--giant, spiny blowfish, evil broccoli creatures from outer space, local hoodlums the Gangreen Gang and their nemesis Mojo Jojo, a monkey with a master plan to take over the world. But adults have shown enthusiasm for the Girls as well, drawn to the show's visual and aural puns: One recurring character is Sara Bellum, the mayor's assistant, whose curvaceous figure belies her unrivaled intelligence and common sense (at least in this cartoon world) and whose most valuable feature, her head, is never shown. And "The Powerpuff Girls" is an example of a return to the more simplistic art design of Hanna-Barbera or UPA--anti-Disney animation, if you will--wherein the p>   Powerpuff Girls, without ears, noses, fingers or toes, may not look like little girls but rather represent little girls.

   "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" is the origin story for the show. Of course, any fan knows that story by now. (Every episode begins with a narration of the mythology: "Sugar. Spice. And everything nice. These were the ingredients that were chosen to create the perfect little girl. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction: Chemical X. Thus the Powerpuff Girls were born!") The movie glosses over this little bit to get the crux of the introduction: "Using their ultra-superpowers, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup have dedicated their lives to fighting crime and forces of evil!"

   At first the triplets use their lightning-fast speed, ability to fly and laser eye beams to help out around the house--painting and decorating their new room, adding windows to the house, cutting the crusts of sandwiches. But when they are introduced to the game of tag, the Girls tear the town apart in their efforts not to be "it." Thus they suffer the fate of many a superhero--to be despised by the very people they are trying to help. And in an effort to make it up to the people of Townsville, they are duped by Mojo Jojo into helping him with a scheme that only makes matters worse.

   Although the Girls' creator, Craig McCracken, has repeatedly denied having an agenda with the show, there have been occasions when an educational message has slipped through, such has when the children of Townsville must defeat the aforementioned broccoli creatures by eating them in an episode called "Beat Your Greens." Likewise, here Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, historically perceived as the most popular little girls in school (and in Townsville, for that matter), actually got a rough start on life, with the local paper screaming, "Freaky Bug-Eyed Weirdo Girls Broke Everything!" after their rambunctious afternoon of play. There's not a child or adult alive who can't relate to being called "freaky" or "weirdo," if not "bug-eyed."

   Meanwhile, Mojo Jojo's evil plan to take over the world this time around involves a whole lot of monkeys, and the screenwriters have a heyday with the simian-themed puns, the most clever of which probably is when Mojo says, "The time has come to oppose that thumb."

   The color palette here is more mature than on the show, resulting in a picture that is darker and drabber and often fails to pop when it should for more effect. However, there are a couple of examples of great use and non-use of color: Mojo's lab is radioactive green, reflecting not only the evil nature of his plan but the synthetic means by which he achieves it; and the girls hole up on an asteroid in space, where it is silent and nearly black and white.

   Unfortunately, while a motion picture gives "The Powerpuff Girls" a broader canvass on which to paint and play, even at 87 minutes, the storyline feels padded. The Girls' game of tag is delightful and creative--the filmmakers clearly had a good time drawing this scene out--but it's overlong. Voiced by Catherine Cavadini, Tara Strong, E.G. Daily, Roger L. Jackson, Tom Kane and Tom Kenny. Directed by Craig McCracken. Written by Charlie Bean, Lauren Faust, Craig McCracken, Paul Rudish and Don Shank. Produced by Donna Castricone. A Warner Bros. release. Animated. Rated PG for non-stop frenetic animated action. Running time: 87 min

Tags: Catherine Cavadini, Tara Strong, E.G. Daily, Roger L. Jackson, Tom Kane, Tom Kenny, Craig McCracken, Charlie Bean, Lauren Faust, Paul Rudish, Don Shank, Donna Castricone, Warner Bros, Animated, action, superhero
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