Pokemon: The First Movie (1999)

Directed by Michael Haigney & Kunihiko Yuyama
Written by Norman J. Grossfield, Michael Haigney, Takeshi Shudo, & John Touhey
Starring Veronica Taylor, Philip Bartlett, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Addie Blaustein

My Advice: Wait for MST3K.

Ash Ketchum (voiced by Taylor) has a goal.  He wants to be the greatest Pokemon trainer that ever lived.  He seems to be doing fairly well so far, since he has his three Pokemons Pikachu (Ikue Otani), Bulbasaur and Squirtle pretty much under control and able to whup anybody else's.  But when he receives an invitation from the world's greatest Pokemon Master, obviously a challenge to battle, he rises to the occasion and goes to New Island to have his mettle tested.  Unbeknownst to Ash and friends, the Master in question is a genetically-engineered Pokemon, Mewtwo.  Mewtwo is not only powerful, he can also form complete sentences instead of communicating only with syllables of his name.  So of course, he forms plans for world domination.

This movie's gonna make a bundle.  Kids, who have Pokemon on the brain, will fight each other for seats on opening day.  They'll have their parents pull them out of school to see the first matinee.  They'll buy the cards and the games and blah blah blah.  It will make a ton of money and I won't be surprised at all to see that it's topped the box office next weekend.  But let me clue you into something.  It's fetid.  It's the worst piece of crass commercial trash I've ever seen on a screen.  It's so bad, I begged the projectionist to show me The Haunting instead.  When this did no good, I almost chomped down on the hollow tooth in which I keep the cyanide.

Now why, you ask, am I so unenthralled by Pikachu, the cute yellow bloated weasel with a lightning bolt shoved up its butt, and his little movie?  Well, when watching a feature film with characters you know nothing about, it's really nice to be given some kind of introduction to what you're seeing.  Even a rundown of the major characters' names would have been nice.  But instead the film takes an eternity to get started, spending a boatload of time acquainting us with the evil Mewtwo.  Then after a brief interlude that I guess was supposed to instill something that passed for dramatic tension and suspense, there's still a ways to go before the lame morals of the passion play are jackhammered home.  These messages are of course, very anti-violence, and too late because an eternity of Pokemon ass-kicking has been going on.

Now let me back up a second.  If you have kids who are under eight and into Pokemon, I'm sure the movie's fine.  In fact, they might love it but if my experience serves me, they won't.  The kids in the screening I attended were loud and boisterous as the film started, but quickly got quiet and stayed there.  They only laughed two or three times and for the most part seemed really uninterested.  Now that I think of it, parents should all get together and draw straws to see who is saddled with taking the neighborhood children. 

There's only one possible bright side to this ordeal.  Perhaps the interest in Pokemon will grow within the small children to the point where they're old enough to go check out classic Japanese animation like Mononoke.  Until then, we should take the subtitle "The First Movie" as a threat.

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