Lots of sugar, spice in a puffy cartoon

Movie Review

July 03, 2002|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

There's a wonderfully funny and relentlessly cute 45-minute cartoon within The Powerpuff Girls Movie; unfortunately, it's padded out with almost as much filler. It may sound silly to speak of an 87-minute cartoon as tedious, but when even my 11-year-old daughter has trouble keeping her eyes on the screen, something is amiss.

The Powerpuff Girls, big-eyed, super-powered bundles of joy that have become a major hit on TV's Cartoon Network, are one of the best things going in animation today. They're cute, they're funny, and they do what their father tells them; if that isn't the basis for a successful movie, I don't know what is.

But director Craig McCracken and his four fellow screenwriters are content with taking a basic Powerpuff Girls plot - the girls mistakenly wreak havoc, then right their collective wrongs - and stretching things beyond the breaking point. No point is too small to belabor, no sequence too long to not be extended even further.

Our story opens in the impressionistic city of Townsville, a mass of lines and squiggles and geometric shapes. Things are not going well in Townsville; ruffians terrorize the citizenry, no one seems to have any manners anymore, and life is just downright nasty. But out of this squalor comes Professor Utonium, a man of science determined to make things better, if only by example. He sets out to create a trio of perfect little girls, mixing - what else? - sugar, spice and everything nice.

When his frenetic lab assistant, a monkey named Jojo, knocks a vial of Chemical X into the mix, the reaction produces not just perfect little girls, but little girls with superpowers that make them practically invulnerable. Thus are born Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup.

Being newborn and all, the girls have a lot to learn. They are introduced to the game of tag, which they play with gusto - too much, in fact, knocking over buildings and plowing up streets, until Townsville is all but destroyed.

The tag game is but the first of the movie's overlong sequences; it seems to go on for hours, with the same action being repeated over and over. The first time, it's all rather thrilling, especially with the pounding, bass-heavy soundtrack propelling things. But here's betting you'll be ready to move on well before the movie is.

That pattern is repeated throughout what is essentially the Powerpuff version of Planet of the Apes, as the girls go up against Jojo, who has been doused with Chemical X and turned into an evil version of his mischievous self. Now known as Mojo Jojo, he dreams of having primates rule the world.

There are lots of nice touches in the movie, hints of the cleverness that makes the TV show such a joy; who can resist when Buttercup gets to utter her own version of Charlton Heston's immortal simian putdown from the original Apes film?

Such moments, though, only underscore what a wasted opportunity this movie is.

Powerpuff Girls Movie

Directed by Craig McCracken

Rated PG ( action)

Released by Warner Bros.

Running time 87 minutes

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