Dir.: Craig McCracken
Starring: Catherine Cavadini, Tara Strong, E.G. Daily, Roger L. Jackson, Tom Kane, Tom Kenny
As always, watch out for SPOILERS!
and everything nice. That, they tell us, is what little girls are
made of. But what happens if you add an accidental dose of
Chemical X to that equation? You get.... the Powerpuff Girls!
Created by animator Craig McCracken for a college animation
project, the Powerpuff Girls - originally known as the
"Whoopass Girls" - became a big hit when their animated
series launched on Cartoon Network, and when anything gets as
popular as the girls, a movie usually follows. Their movie -
ever-so-originally titled "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" -
was Cartoon Network's first big screen outing, but unfortunately,
it's pretty likely there won't be any more, as the girls'
adventure didn't exactly break the box office. Which is, quite
frankly, a crying shame.
"The Powerpuff Girls Movie" tells the story of the girls' origins, and how they became heroes. It all begins in the city of Townsville - a city ravaged by crime. But one man, Professor Utonium (Kane), seeks to bring a little goodness into the world, and combines sugar, spice and everything nice to create three perfect little girls. When his lab chimp causes him to accidentally shatter a flask of the mutagenic Chemical X, adding it to the concoction, the results are explosive - and the Powerpuff Girls are born! Blessed with ultra super powers, Blossom (Cavadini), Bubbles (Strong) and Buttercup (Daily) accidentally wreck Townsville when they use their powers to dangerous extremes during a game of tag, causing the populous to turn on them. When the Professor is jailed, the girls get lost in the city, where they meet a mysterious hobo - who is, in actuality, the Professor's lab chimp, Jojo (Jackson), who was also mutated by the explosion in the lab and was endowed with massive intelligence. He and the girls are in the same boat - spurned by society because of their powers - but Jojo suggests that if the girls help him build a machine to help the town, they will be accepted. And so the girls help Jojo construct his device... but it's not what they think, as the evil Jojo captures apes and monkeys, and uses the machine to mutate them with Chemical X. Jojo unleashes the super-powered simians upon Townsville, and proclaims himself king, assuming a new name - Mojo Jojo! But Mojo's monkeys have ideas of their own, and the girls are faced with a mass of menaces they'll have to defeat if they're going to save the world - before bedtime!
Perhaps the most noticeable thing about "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" is that it's played much straighter than the cartoon series. It feels almost odd to see the girls in such a straightforward action tale which actually has a point and a moral, rather than engaging in an adventure more like their cartoon series, where each of their escapades always has some kind of quirk going on for it, which are ultimately just silly fun and don't really serve to get a message across the way the movie does. That's not to say the trademark humour of the series is absent, because it's not, but with some downright *serious* moments occurring in the course of the movie, one certainly can tell that it's a different animal to the series.
This is merely a subjective thing, but I, personally, am now bored of the animation style that Genndy Tartakovsky shows are rendered in. In fact, its repetitive simplicity now borders on annoyance. You know what I'm talking about - two-dimensional geometric characters, transposition of numerous anime conventions (streaky-lined backgrounds and metallic crashes and light-pings being good examples), and very often, episodes which revolve around being outside of the norm. It was interesting and unusual at first, but now, it's just passť. However, "The Powerpuff Girls" is the one show that could actually pull off this kind of stuff the best - where it actually felt like it *worked*, not like it was being done for the sake of being quirky ("Dexter's Lab," people). Anyway - with the transition to the big screen, the animation leaps up several notches, adding a third dimension to the visuals, and also reducing the use of anime conventions. The blending of cell animation and CGI is well done, with some very impressive results. The soundtrack is largely just the TV show's with sprinkles on top - I think that the movie could have benefited from including some of the soundtrack CD's songs in it. There are numerous scenes that are montages and/or low on dialogue, such as the girls helping to build Mojo's lair, the girls battling a whole mess'a monkeys, and the back-and-forth sequence between Mojo and the girls as a new morning begins that would have been perfect to include something like this.
As to the cast - it took a moment to sink in for me, but then I realised: this movie has absolutely NO celebrities stepping in to do guest voices and add star power. I can't remember the last time an American animated movie did that. It's a nasty convention that's been plaguing American animation since "Transformers: The Movie," where real, talented voice artists are upstaged by visiting celebrities who have been brought on to pimp the movie up a bit. Regrettably, perhaps it is the lack of such celebrity that "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" did not do so well at the box office. Such is life... anyway, the whole cartoon cast reprises their roles here and give good performances, with my personal favourite being Tara Strong as Bubbles's impossibly cute li'l voice. Roger L. Jackson turns in another impressive performance as Mojo Jojo - you really have to give this guy credit for being able to do Mojo's ridiculous rants. Additionally, there's something quietly amusing about seeing Hollywood voice god, Frank Welker, credited officially as, and I quote, "whole lotta monkeys."
So, in conclusion, "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" doesn't get the recognition it deserves, but I'm sure it's destined to become some form of cult hit. It's visually impressive and fun to watch, but suitably different enough from the cartoon series that it may surprise you. There's not that much more one can say about it, as it's a simplistic story, but its hyperactive visuals and genuinely fun feel make it worth a look.
Movie Rating: 3.5 out of 5
I'm reviewing the DVD, so there's more than just the movie, and I thought that I'd look at the extras separately. I'll likely be doing this for other DVDs I review in the future. In addition to various audio and subtitle options, extras on the disc include:
- Interviews with the cast - not the voice actors, but the characters themselves; Blossom, Bubbles, Buttercup, Mojo Jojo and the Mayor, shot in a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" manner of animation on live action. They're short, but give you a chuckle (especially the Mayor's).
- A "behind the scenes" segment, which is, honestly, disappointingly short. It features a brief look at the voice actors, music and storyboarding process... and... that's about it. I would particularly have liked to have seen longer talks with McCracken and the voice actors, but I took enough away from their short segment to just be utterly shocked at the face behind Mojo Jojo, Roger L. Jackson, who, I would have sworn from listening to Mojo, was oriental - yet he's a big ol' Hawaiian shirt-wearin' white dude.
- The theatrical trailer (which I don't think is a good as some of the TV ads, which had that infectious "That's What Girls Do" song).
- And a "Dexter's Laboratory" short titled "Chicken Scratch," where Dexter catches the chicken pox. I can't profess to know this for certain, but since it's in widescreen, I suspect that the short was a vignette for the movie in theatres, which would mean it's not really a DVD extra at all, and they just put it in the extras section to pad it out a bit.
So, the extras are a bit disappointing - for what they are, they're good, but I would have liked a longer "behind the scenes" section, and maybe a gallery of concept art or storyboards. I at least praise them for not going down the road that would fill the disc with inane, childish games and puzzles - the presence of older fans, it seems, is being acknowledged.
Oh, and there's scene selection, naturally, but the movie is only split up into 8 chapters, and would have benefited from being divided up a bit more.
Extras Rating: 2.5 out of 5