Sunday, June 16, 2024

‘My Little Pony: The Movie’ Is Busy Doing Nothing

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I am not the audience for this movie. I’m not sure who the audience is, and I don’t think the movie knows either. This is a dull, ugly, flat, stultifying affair filled with an overabundance of information about nothing.

The movie is based off a long running television show with a large and diverse fanbase. Unlike The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the producers of the show thought it best not to alienate the fans by replacing everyone with big name actors. For this, at least, the filmmakers deserve some credit.

One of the more baffling issues is the decision to make My Little Pony: The Movie both so busy and yet so simple at the same time. Princess Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) is in charge of planning the annual Friendship Festival. As she and her friends Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain), Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie (Andrea Libman), Applejack and Rainbow Dash (Ashleigh Ball), and Spike (Cathy Weseluck) set up for the festival, they find themselves being invaded. The Storm King (Liev Schreiber) has come to Equestria. His army is led by Tempest (Emily Blunt), a pony with a broken horn. She imprisons the other princesses and now Princess Twilight Sparkle must find the Queen of the Hippos (It’s actually Hippogryphs but she mishears it).

The main cast has seven characters. They’re color coded but have little-to-no defining characteristics. I know Applejack is the one in the cowboy hat, but for the life of me I can’t tell you which one Fluttershy is. To make matters worse, they crammed in dozens of new characters and celebrity voice cameos, leading to have a cast bursting at the seams but with ultimately very little to do. Taye Diggs voices Capper, a sweet-talking, Southern-Puss-In Boots type, who might have been interesting but seems as lost as everyone else. The Queen of the Hippogryphs is voiced by Uzo Aduba and her daughter is voiced by Kristen Chenoweth. There’s also the crew of the airship—once pirates, but now a delivery crew for the Storm King—who become pirates again after meeting Princess Twilight Sparkle and her friends.

My Little Pony: The Movie is made for no one. It’s not made for the fans. From what I can tell, the older fans love the show because of how it deals with social anxiety. There’s a cleverness and a knowing smile to the show. All of this is gone. It’s all puns with an odd “Hungry Hungry Hippo” joke here or there and a Pretty Woman reference.

It’s not made for non-fans either because hardly anything is done to tell us about the world or the characters of Equestria. Why do some ponies have horns and others don’t? Who is the Storm King? Where is he from? Why have they never left Equestria before? Do the ponies with horns maintain a higher place in the caste system than the ones without horns? Or is Equestria based on a meritocracy? How does a quadruple Princess-lead monarchy work?

This movie teaches children that it’s right to cast Kristin Chenoweth in your movie, fill it with five songs, and have her sing only a few lines of one. Uzo Aduba a classically trained vocalist, plays her Mother, and the two don’t even have a duet. How do you have Chenoweth and Aduba play mother and daughter and not have them sing a duet? NO. You either get a voice cast comparable to them, or you don’t have songs. It is a cruel and ugly thing to teach children that it is acceptable to have Kristin Chenoweth and Uzo Aduba in non-singing roles in a movie where other people sing bland, uninspired, tortuously monotonous songs. Just because we have an angry day-glo skinned hobgoblin as President that’s no reason to teach our children that there is no beauty in the world.

You’re better off just skipping My Little Pony: The Movie altogether. It’s bizarrely dull, visually-speaking. It’s colorful but in a way in which the colors are bright but never pop. The animation is stilted and over-stylized. This may work for television, but when blown up for the big screen it becomes flat and ugly. It’s that style where the flags in the background blow in the breeze but the roiling storm clouds lie motionless.

My Little Pony: The Movie does manage to continue the long animated-film tradition of containing one scene certain to traumatize and disturb young minds during their formative years. The Storm King, thanks to Tempest, has gained all the magic in Equestria via the Staff Ex Machina (Not the actual name just one I made up because I can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called). Tempest, of course, sees the folly of her ways when she discovers the bad guy is…bad. The Storm King has a magical orb that turns ponies into statues and throws it at Princess Twilight Sparkle. Tempest jumps in front of it and knocks the Storm King off the tower. She kicks the orb, breaking it and transforming the falling King into a statue.

Yes. My Little Pony: The Movie kills The Storm King a la Hans Gruber from Die Hard. Except in Die Hard we don’t see Hans hit the ground and break into a dozen pieces, his face twirling around from the velocity and coming to rest with his stone eyes facing the camera in a close up. This is a mere ten minutes after Princess Twilight Sparkle utters the line, “Friendship didn’t fail me; I failed friendship.” It was glorious to see a kids’ movie take such a morbid, Dario Argento-inspired turn, even if only for a few brief seconds.

The only audience I can conceivably see enjoying this is someone who hasn’t seen a movie before. If you have a young child who’s never been to a movie before than they might enjoy it. But you must make sure and tell them afterward that even though Emily Blunt is a wonderful actress and a perfectly nice person, that’s no reason to give her a singing solo and give Kristin Chenoweth and Uzo Aduba nothing. It’s vital they learn these important truths, because clearly they won’t learn anything from My Little Pony: The Movie.

Image Courtesy of Lionsgate

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