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  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002): ****

    Directed by Craig McCracken

    Thinking about this movie got me thinking. Normally in my positive movie reviews I say what I liked about a movie, and then say a few things that bothered me or dissappointed me or that I didn't like. After watching this movie I thought back on it and realized that there was NOTHING that bothered me or disappointed me or that I didn't like.

    It is, in essence, perfect. I bought the whole package, hook, line, and sinker.

    The story (about which I knew nothing going in) turns out to be the actual Superhero Origin Story of the girls, which suprised me a little, but made sense. If they had just tried to do a new Powerpuff Girls story, it probably would have been excellent, but it might not have had the specialness of this. People (me included) would probably say, "That was good, but why did they need to make a movie out of it? It just seemed like a big episode of the TV show." But by going back in time and dealing with the Origin Story (which has only ever been periferally touched on in the series), we get a story that actually deserves to be worked in a major format like this.

    And, thankfully, because they are smart, the writing team (led by McCracken) includes everything in this story that has previously been mentioned in the series. There are no continuity gaps whatsoever that I could find. If you watched this movie first and then watched the show, you wouldn't be able to go, "Hey, wait, I thought variable X happened THIS way, not THAT way!"

    The movie is filled with such exuberance and fantastic energy that it simply radiates sheer joy from the screen. When it is this obvious that filmmakers love their material this much, it somehow translates past the flickering images. We can feel McCracken's love for the girls and the world they live in, and it makes the experience that much better. The film has such a spring in its step and snap to its progression that it so easily fulfilled ALL my requirements for a Four-Star movie: Throughout the entire film I was grinning ear-to-ear with exuberance (such as in Panic Room), staring unbelievably with gaping mouth at the incredible things happening on the screen (such as in Attack of the Clones), and laughing my ass off while still feeling the real humanity behind the comedy (such as in The Royal Tenenbaums and Ghost World). Often in this film all three things would happen simultaneously.

    The art direction as expected was fantastic, but they seemed to have turned it up a notch even from the show. The Asteroid sequence in particular had my jaw dropping at the sheer audacity of the design. The music is off-the-charts spectacular, particularly the quirky housebeat-driven almost-techno of the first half.

    Because of a bigger budget, McCracken was able to use more special effects in this film, such as computer modeling and multi-plane stuff. And I thought it all worked just fine, particularly in the unbelievable first action sequence, the city-wide game of "tag" the girls play. There are shots from the girls' points of view as they're zooming down city streets and turning corners that are breathtaking.

    But what suprised me the most (although it shouldn't have) was that this film is more than just an exercise in kinetic energy. It has a heart that makes it rise far above simply the visual experience. The emotions that the girls and Professor Utonium feel are vivid, strong, and very, very effective. They're REAL. At one point when Bubbles started crying, I heard several of the parents in the audience go "Awww..." with genuine sympathy. It is really a credit to McCracken that a movie that is filled with so much spectacular eye-candy is able to make us genuinely empathetic towards its characters. It's like having an entire cake, not just the icing.

    This film makes me very much want Cartoon Network to let Genndy Tartakovsky direct a big-screen Samurai Jack animated movie. I've heard rumors of a live-action movie being tossed around, but I sincerely hope that it ends up being animated, becuase if this film is any indication, Tartakovsky and McCracken could easily become the leading forces in animation in the world.

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