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Movies
'Pokémon 3'

Pokémon: not dead yet 'Pokémon 3' gives young fans rescues, battles, new creatures

Friday, April 06, 2001

By Sharon Eberson, Post-Gazette Sunday Magazine Editor

The Pokemon factory that churns out an animated TV series, video games, trading cards and toys also has given us three movies in three years. For 2001, we get "Pokémon 3: Spell of the Unown," which is mostly the same old thing with a little bonus: It rewards a child's loyalty to all of the above.

 
 
'Pokémon 3'

RATING: G

DIRECTORS: Kunihiko Yuyama and Michael Haigney

WEB SITE: movies.warner
bros.com/pk3

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

If, for instance, your child, like mine, is dedicated to Pokemon Gold or Silver for GameBoy, he'll already have some insights into some of the characters introduced here. Chief among the newcomers are the Unown, a sort of hieroglyphic alphabet soup, and Entei, a giant shaggy guard dog of a creature "with a big roar and a gentle heart."

And if your child watches episodes on The WB network, he'll know that our determined hero, Pokemon trainer Ash Ketchum, recently released his Charizard in a tearful goodbye. That knowledge comes into play when Charizard returns to help Ash in time of dire need.

This doesn't mean all is lost for the child who has only a superficial knowledge of all things Pokemon. He might still like the now-familiar Japanese animation of flat faces and fanciful scenery and creatures. And if you're the adult chaperone sitting through "Pokemon 3," well, as my 9-year-old son said, "It's not for you, anyway."

He's right, for the most part. Although there are moments when the animators keep the older audience in mind -- such as when Team Rocket's James first sees the Unown and declares: "I haven't seen this many strange letters since the last time I placed a personal ad" -- it's important to remember that these films are geared mostly for the 10-and-younger set.

Embracing "Pokemon" is difficult for an adult whose animation loyalties lie with Disney and now DreamWorks studios, where the years of work that go into full-length features are obvious. Still, I can't deny agreeing with the occasional "cool" uttered by the four third-graders and one kindergartener who accompanied me to this movie.

One of my charges happens to reside in Pittsburgh's Greenfield. What's so cool about that? Ash and his friends, Misty and Brock, find their adventure in the town of Greenfield, where "everything's beautiful."

Greenfield also is home to 5-year-old Molly and her father, who leaves for long stretches to search for legendary Pokemon. When he uncovers one -- the Unown -- he vanishes. The Unown then find their way to Molly and begin to create a world based on her imagination and yearning for her father and long-gone mother.

Greenfield's lovely landscape is swiftly transformed into "a bizarre crystal wasteland," isolating Molly and Entei, another legendary Pokemon summoned by the Unown to protect the girl and grant her every wish. Molly sees Entei as "Papa" and when she asks for a mother, Entei kidnaps one -- Ash's. With her "family" now by her side, Molly is determined to keep the outside world at a distance.

At one point, Entei utters the line, "Whether it is right or wrong doesn't matter. I will do as she wishes." This is one of Molly's wake-up calls that it's time to get real.

Will Ash rescue his mother and free Molly in the process? Will Team Rocket make a comic-relief appearance that has nothing to do with the story? Will many Pokemon do battle, sometimes for the fun of it, sometimes to save the world?

Will kids rush to buy merchandise after seeing the latest Pokemon adventures?

You don't have to be a loyal viewer to know the answers to any of those questions.

As has become the custom with Pokemon movies, a "bonus" short precedes the feature. If you find that "Pikachu and Pichu" seems to be just an excuse to introduce dozens of new Pokemon, with a little humor and a Dixieland jazz-inspired score thrown in, then you must be over the age of 10.

I can just see the "you just don't get it" look in my son's eyes now. After his third Pokemon film experience, he remains loyal.



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