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'Powerpuff Girls Movie, The'

'Powerpuff' movie packs punch of series

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

There was a time when any self-respecting little boy wouldn't give a second glance to a cartoon about a (yuck!) girl. Rainbow Brite? Eek! Strawberry Shortcake? Gag! Why do you think there was only one Smurfette? She-Ra passed muster because she was a) hot, and b) a spinoff of "He-Man," whose very name reeked of enough testosterone to compensate for the presence of a super heroine.

 
 
"The Powerpuff
Girls Movie"

RATING: PG for nonstop frenetic animated action

DIRECTOR: Craig McCracken

WEB SITE: www.cartoonnetwork
.com/ppg/movie

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

In the new millennium, when both society and animated TV shows have become more diverse and more impertinent, the old distinctions are breaking down. "The Powerpuff Girls" ranks as one of the highest-rated programs on cable's Cartoon Network, and you don't reach that plateau if little boys aren't watching, too.

One could argue that the Powerpuff Girls are more like little boys than cartoon girls used to be. OK, they're cute as buttons and as feminine as possible for kindergartners with perfectly round little heads and eyes so big they put the kids in those kitschy velvet paintings to shame.

But they're not staring up at you begging for pity in "The Powerpuff Girls Movie," a big-screen adaptation of the TV series that goes beyond the show's introduction to actually show us how these grrrls (as it should be spelled) came to be.

The perfectly square (and drawn that way) Professor Utonium wanted to create his own perfect little girl to counteract the corruption rampant in the city of Townsville. So he mixed sugar, spice and everything nice. But his lab monkey, Jojo, accidentally spilled the powerful Chemical X into the vat.

The result: perky Bubbles, short-tempered Buttercup, level-headed Blossom. They're as cute as can be. They are also faster than a speeding bullet, can crash through tall buildings at a single bound and fly like a bird, a plane ... well, you get the idea.

When the girls all but demolish Townsville in a friendly game of tag, the citizenry shuns them. Feeling unloved, the girls fall under the spell of the professor's lab monkey, who also was affected by Chemical X to become the evil genius Mojo Jojo.

Like all good cartoon villains, he tries to take over the world with the unwitting help of the Powerpuffs. In the end, they must kick a lot of monkey butt to save the world. Maybe George W. should send THEM after Osama.

One may wonder about the nonstop intensity of the whupping that goes on in the second half of the movie, and pretty much the entire film runs on overdrive in terms of action. But if the kids have seen the TV show, they're used to that.

A curmudgeon might point out the mixed message sent by the character of the Mayor's right-hand woman. The Mayor of Townsville looks like the old rich guy in a Monopoly game, and it is apparent he couldn't function without his Sara Bellum -- but she appears only as a voluptuous figure whose head is cut off by the top of the frame. WDVE would approve, I'm sure.

But here I am treating a cartoon as if it were something serious. "The Powerpuff Girls" thrives on its attitude and sense of humor, aimed as much at adults as it is at kids, who also will dig the nonstop action. The silly drawing style and discount-house animation help mitigate whatever scariness might reside in the parade of mutant apes that Mojo Jojo creates.

The fact that the apes make jokes about opposable thumbs and start bickering like humans over exactly which of them will run things speaks to the level of the humor in the film, which is directed by Craig McCracken.

And the fact that, in spite of everything, the Powerpuff Girls and Professor Utonium really adore each other makes it clear that just because you have attitude, it doesn't mean you can't be a softie, too. Little boys -- and big ones, too -- are still working on that one.

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