More sensitive `Pokemon 3' fights tears and its battles, too

April 07, 2001|By Knight Ridder Tribune

News of Pokemon's death may have been premature.

Fans of the animated miniature monsters will be pleasantly surprised with a plot that pumps a little psychological complexity in the franchise. With a story that focuses on characters who have good reasons for doing wrong, "Pokemon 3: The Movie" actually elicits a few tears in between the battles.

The plot revolves around Molly, a child whose mother is gone -- probably dead -- and whose father disappears while researching an ancient Pokemon called Unown. The Unown is made up of 26 separate, lettered tiles -- like a Scrabble set with powers.

Molly arranges the tiles to spell her father's name. In an "X-Files" moment, the Unown sends her Entei, a lion-like Pokemon beast with a big roar and tender heart, to be her father and make her wishes seem to come true.

But as Entei creates crystal walls to block off himself and Molly from the intrusive reality of the outside world, the story becomes suggestive of "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden," as the girl fights fiercely against giving up her fantasies.

The audience sympathizes with Molly -- what child wouldn't prefer an imaginary world with two loving parents rather than a reality with neither? Ash Ketchum (the star of the Pokemon franchise) steps in when the crystal walls start spreading across the world.

Then, when Molly asks Entei for her mother, he brings her Ash's mother, instead. And Ash becomes determined to rescue his mother, even though his own loss makes him sympathetic to Molly's. More important here than the beginning is the end; for kids worried about Molly's parents, the scenes just before and during the closing credits should allay concerns.

The movie is preceded by a 22-minute short, "Pikachu and Pichu," in which Ash's favorite Pokemon, Pikachu, proves yet again, that even bad Pokemon can turn good with a little help from their friends.

`Pokemon 3'

Starring the voices of Veronica Taylor and Eric Stuart

Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama and Michael Haigney

Rated G

Running time 93 minutes

Sun score ** 1/2

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