My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)

Perhaps I am not the person to review this. Not long ago, I tried to watch the pilot episode of the 2010 revival of "My Little Pony" (subtitled "Friendship Is Magic"), which has gained popularity with small children and, bizarrely, twentysomething adults since it started airing. I made it ten minutes before bailing on it. To my surprise, My Little Pony: The Movie, the first feature-length adaptation starring the "pastel ponies" of the TV series, is at least slightly more dignified. The word "slightly" is important, though. It's mediocre, rather than annoying, which means that the little things are blessings here.

One of those little things is that the primary villain of the piece is having none of the happy nonsense for which our sextet of heroines stand. "I've had enough of the cute-pony thing," he exclaims before calling upon the powers of a magical staff to do something-or-other that will give him ultimate power. It is, of course, lost upon the screenwriters (Meghan McCarthy, Rita Hsiao, and Michael Vogel) that the Storm King (voice of Liev Schreiber) is decrying the bland virtuousness of the so-called Mane 6 before claiming his own bland villainy. That's to be expected, although at least the sardonic attitude is something.

The other thing is that the film is uniquely positive, so that any divergences from that positivity hit at least marginally harder than they might if it was cynicism dipped in sickly sweetness, as seems to be the norm with animated movies of this ilk. The six ponies - including technically-a-unicorn Princess Twilight Sparkle (voice of Tara Strong), Rarity (voice of Tabitha St. Germain), Applejack and Rainbow Dash (both voiced by Ashleigh Ball), and Fluttershy and the manically cheerful Pinkie Pie (both voiced by Andrea Libman) - tirelessly and, eventually, tiresomely attempt to achieve positive outcomes for any situation. There is, though, the inevitable falling-out moment when the bond of friendship is stretched to the breaking point. The film pauses to consider the impact. It doesn't last long, but it is something.

Their village, called Equestria, is invaded by the Storm King's main lieutenant Tempest Shadow (voice of Emily Blunt), a unicorn with a broken horn (which is a source of magic for unicorns in this world) and an annoying sidekick (voiced by Michael Pena). The Storm King wants the combined power in the horns had by the princesses to power the staff of, well, ultimate power. It's the kind of generic fantasy adventure that populates movies of this low caliber of animation, although there is nothing particularly harmful in it. They seek the help of Capper (voice of Taye Diggs), a cat whose allegiance always shifts with his gain in the situation, and the Hippogriffs, whose queen (voiced by Uzo Aduba) is reluctant to help even though her kind are also being targeted by the Storm King.

The movie escapes the trap of appealing to the lowest common denominator in its viewership by, at least, failing to offer anything that is particularly offensive. There is a minimum of bathroom humor, which is a relief. Instead, director Jayson Thiessen offers action sequences that superimpose the rudimentary 2-D creations that are the characters against an impressive 3-D backdrop. Add on that My Little Pony: The Movie is a half-hearted musical whose songs are in a minor key, and what we have here is a movie for a specific audience. The adults, of course, are the ones politely tolerating it and checking their watch on occasion.

Film Information

Featuring the voices of Tara Strong (Princess Twilight Sparkle), Emily Blunt (Tempest Shadow), Andrea Libman (Fluttershy/Pinkie Pie), Ashleigh Ball (Applejack/Rainbow Dash), Tabitha St. Germain (Rarity/Princess Luna/Granny Smith/Muffins), Cathy Weseluck (Spike the Dragon), Taye Diggs (Capper), Michael Pena (Grubber), Zoe Saldana (Captain Celaeno), Kristin Chenoweth (Princess Skystar), Liev Schreiber (The Storm King), Uzo Aduba (Queen Novo), Britt McKillip (Princess Cadance), Nicole Oliver (Princess Celestia), and Sia (Songbird Serenade).

Directed by Jayson Thiessen and written by Meghan McCarthy, Rita Hsiao, and Michael Vogel, based on the television series created by Lauren Faust.

Rated PG (mild action).

99 minutes.

Released on October 6, 2017.

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