Dreaming of Dreamworks – Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) Review

Rating: 5/10

Plot: In the gorgeous plains of the old west, a stallion named Spirit roams free with his herd. He loves and protects his herd day in and day out. One day, a group of humans kidnap Spirit and bring him to an army outpost where they aim to break him into an army horse. Spirit allies with a fellow captive, a Lakota boy named Little Creek, and they manage to escape. However, Spirit is just as quickly wrangled up by the village’s tribesmen. While they’re much more kind to Spirit, he wrestles with trusting them and wants nothing more than to be set free and go back home.

Breakdown: Before I get to the actual movie, let’s talk about movies that have or were meant to have “silent” characters. It takes a lot of talent to pull off silent characters, because we have to gauge how they’re reacting, what they’re thinking and what they’re trying to ‘say’ all through body language. (Unless the character can/does write down their dialogue, which is a different pool to swim in.) You have an amazing opportunity in animation with this because you can manipulate the facial expressions, motions and environments as much as you want.

Take Disney’s Dinosaur, for example. While the film is praised for its imagery and animation, it is largely criticized for its lackluster and dull story with forgettable characters. Several other critics noted that the characters sounded way too modern. As one critic mentioned, they sounded like “mallrats,” and the way the dinosaurs spoke and interacted with each other took what was originally a promising movie and made it take a “nose-dive.” I found the movie a bit more tolerable but I can definitely see why that movie gets such flak in that regard.

Originally, Dinosaur was meant to be darker, more documentary-like and have no dialogue. According to the Wiki,

“The film was originally supposed to have no dialogue at all, in part to differentiate the film from Universal Pictures’ The Land Before Time (1988) with which Dinosaur shares plot similarities. Eisner insisted that the film have dialogue in order to make it more “commercially viable.” A similar change was also made early in the production of The Land Before Time, which was originally intended to feature only the voice of a narrator.”

It seems Eisner wasn’t really wrong, because the movie made back twice its budget. However, would the movie be more fondly remembered as a classic if we got the darker, more serious dialogue-free movie? Land Before Time was good with dialogue – would it have been better or worse without it? Does it moreso depend on the story and if it lends itself to being dialogue-free?

“But Twix, children are too stupid to understand the subtle nuances of mostly dialogue-free movies. They need constant jibber jabber in order to keep their attention and understand what’s happening.”

To which I respond, “What the hell is 4Kids doing here?”

This argument baffles my mind. Kids are too stupid to understand stories told without dialogue? Children, who are very underdeveloped verbally and start out learning things about life and people through body language and expressions since they can’t understand language (well), are too stupid to get movies that don’t have dialogue or barely have dialogue? Just…what?

I can understand that keeping a child’s attention through a mostly dialogue-free movie would be a challenge anyway, but….well, that’s the challenge. Isn’t it the sign of a true piece of quality when you can have something that both keeps a kid’s attention and tells a good story without needing to shovel a bunch of dialogue into their ears?

Take Wall-E, which, while not being dialogue-free, is very minimal on the dialogue, especially when compared to other animated movies. There are many scenes of silence and allowing the scenery and expressions to convey the story to us.

Ironically, while this decision was largely an artistic one, it was noted by Roger Ebert that, due to Wall-E’s use of silence and lack of dialogue, it would actually appeal to a wider audience because it would cross language barriers and appeal to adults and children alike.

Wall-E is considered a modern masterpiece in sci-fi and animation, and made nearly three times its budget in the box office.

The reason I’m talking about all this is because 1) It’s really interesting and 2) Spirit was always described to me as a mostly dialogue-less movie, and I’ve seen it praised critically for the fact that the horses don’t talk.

However, while the horses don’t talk, the humans do, which I’m perfectly fine with, to be honest, because it’s more realistic for them to talk. What I’m not so fine with is the fact that Spirit has narration running throughout the entire movie, which basically means he’s both ‘talking’ to us anyway, and the movie’s kinda cheating. Plus, his narration is not very well written and points out the obvious a lot.

For instance, mid-way through the movie, Spirit has grown to dislike humans because the colonel of the local US army unit essentially tortured him in order to ‘break’ him so he could be used as an army horse. He manages to escape with the help of a captive Lakota man named Little Creek, who takes Spirit in.

Lakota has his own horse, a mare named Rain, who loves him and plays around with him. Spirit makes a lot of surprised and confused expressions as he stares at them playing, which conveys to the audience that Spirit doesn’t understand why a horse would be so welcoming, playful and loving to a human – considering his experiences with humans to this point has been entirely terrible.

However, narration from Spirit verbally conveys what we can easily see in the animation. It ruins the scene because it has to dumb it down by outright telling us what Spirit’s thinking at the time, which is weird, because I can guarantee if this was a talking horse movie, this scene would probably be kept silent so that Spirit could later question this situation outright to Rain, which can also be done without dialogue.

The narration can simultaneously be pretentious and intrusive. The first night after Spirit’s capture, he looks up to the stars and quietly stares. We then fade to where his herd is and see his mother staring at the same sky. We can interpret this as meaning that Spirit misses his herd, his freedom and his mother. Likewise, his mother misses him as well and is worried about his safety, all the while they’re connected and separated by the wide night sky. However, before the fade transition, we get narration stating “My heart galloped through the skies that night. Back to my herd, where I belonged. And I wondered if they missed me as much as I missed them.”

I nearly had to pause when I heard the line “My heart galloped through the skies that night.” I really can’t decide if it’s pretentious in a juvenile way or just corny.

A nearly great scene is when Spirit is getting captured. His mother starts to scale a rock face to help him out, but Spirit whinnies in desperation, clearly telling his mother to take the herd and leave. The camera is close to Spirit’s face as he pleads with his mother, who is clearly devastated, but realizes that he’s right. His sacrifice will be for nothing if they all get caught.

This works perfectly, until narration, again, has to dumb it down and straight out say “I was scared, and I had no idea what was going to happen to me, but at least the herd was safe.” I only give this scene props because the narration comes immediately after his mother has already left, so the scene is almost undamaged.

Not to mention that the narration is done by Matt Damon, and you can’t not hear Matt Damon. I’m perfectly fine with Matt Damon as an actor, in fact I quite like his work, but I find him to be a terrible voice actor. His voice is fine – it’s the fact that Matt Damon doesn’t seem to be good at acting through his voice alone, which is much more common than you’d think.

That’s why a lot of big-time animated movies with cast lists loaded down with celebrities tend to falter in the voice acting department. I can’t stress how different voice acting is from stage acting. It’s the same concept, but an entirely different world.

Damon just sounds bored throughout his entire narration. He’s missing his herd – bored. He’s charmed by Love Interest – bored. He’s scared after getting captured – bored. He can put so much more charm and emotion into his voice, he’s just choosing not to.

I’m very tempted to edit this movie from start to finish and mute any moments where there’s narration besides the very start and the ending. I can tell just from the way the movie is directed and animated that this could work much better if the narration was gone.

Movies with minimal dialogue don’t just rely on body language, facial expressions and the environments to convey tones and messages, however – they also rely on music. Who do we have for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron? Hans Zimmer for the orchestral score, and several songs by….Bryan Adams. I see someone spun the ‘Random 80’s Pop Musicians we can use in our soundtrack’ wheel animated movies love to use.

I like a few Bryan Adams songs, and I find his voice to be good, but his music here is, for lack of a better term, distracting. It’s not bad, it’s just that it doesn’t add to scenes most of the time – it takes things away.

We got our first taste of one of his songs for this soundtrack when Spirit is free and growing up, enjoying life with his herd. This song, like a lot of grand ‘whoo life is great’ scenes, is fine, but forgettable.

Then we get another song when Spirit is being hauled back to the army camp, which comes off like a poorly edited fanvid. That’s not Bryan Adams’ fault and moreso the fault of the editors and director, but it’s still distracting.

Then we get ‘Get Off My Back’ when Spirit is being ‘broken’ by the soldiers in the corral, and that song just left me feeling pulled in two directions in regards to tone. One minute you want me to feel all sad and worried about Spirit’s situation, then you have this scene with music meant to convey that Spirit’s being kickass and not allowing anyone to ride him. It’s supposed to be triumphant, but then it’s immediately followed by Spirit tied to a post and starved and deprived of water for three days before finally fully being ‘broken’ by the colonel.

This scene would’ve worked a lot better if you had a song that was more about determination and never giving up rather than aiming for being kickass and cocky to all those who dare challenge Spirit. You’d have a scene about a brave, determined being finally wavering in his resolve and faltering rather than a cocky hothead running out of steam.

If they needed comic relief at that point in the movie, they had it just a scene prior where Spirit was being groomed by the blacksmith. They weren’t aiming for breaking him at that point. He was just being trimmed and shoed. Spirit was rather funny in how he was able to keep weaseling his way out of constraints to hit the blacksmith. They even had him basically suspended with ropes by all four of his legs and he still managed to clock him.

Even that scene has a drastic tonal shift because we go from Spirit beating the blacksmith again to the colonel commanding Spirit be broken in the corral.

One of the notes that a critic had that was listed in the Wiki page said the movie would have benefited from a comic relief character, and uh, I have to say, no. Just…no. Comic relief characters are already difficult enough to do properly without making them just obnoxious intrusions into an otherwise good story, but I feel like this movie in particular would suffer from a comic relief character. The main characters already have it in them to do mild comedy scenes, just be better at it.

The next Adams song is at the tail end of the second act when Spirit gets captured again and believes his love interest is dead. On a long, somber train ride through the snow, we get a long, somber song. It’s very hard to me to tell if this scene works. The animation is all very overly dramatic and the song is also overly melancholy. It’s one of those scenes where the movie is obviously doing its damnedest to make you feel bad. He even starts hallucinating his herd as snow horses.

The final song is the finale song, and it’s triumphant song. I honestly can’t even remember how it goes, but I remember it’s triumphant.

As for Zimmer’s score, it’s alright. It’s fitting and decent, but it’s also completely forgettable, which is a damn shame. This is Hans Zimmer, the same guy who scored The Lion King, The Dark Knight and even The Prince of Egypt. ‘Alright’ is incredibly disappointing coming from him.

I’ve been awfully negative during this whole review, but I want to emphasize that this movie’s not a complete wash. There are numerous things to like. The art and animation more than deserve the praise they’ve been given. These are some of the most realistic animated horses I’ve seen in a major motion picture. They look, sound and move in an incredibly realistic manner. Even the humans have good designs and move fluidly. The backgrounds are also extremely well detailed and nice to look at.

The scenes in which the narration takes a break work pretty well. The characters, while being extremely textbook and dull are likable and believable enough.

I hate that, outside of Spirit, we don’t get a backstory on any of them. Little Creek’s…nice. Rain’s…..nice. If I had to write a character synopsis on either, I’d be lost. I don’t even have much to say about Spirit, in that regard. He’s rebellious, he’s responsible, he’s a bit of a troublemaker. He’s nice. Even the horrible, terrible colonel is alright as an antagonist, even if it is a bit silly how personal his vendetta with Spirit gets. I couldn’t count how many times those two eyed each other.

There is also that Pocahontas-esque racist-ish veil over this movie. The white men are all horrible and all the Native Americans have a damn near magical connection with the land and animals. They don’t learn English through magic wind or anything, but that kind of vibe is there. I’m not ignoring the atrocities that occurred in the Old West, particularly the American Indian Wars – by all means, tell it how it is – but….that’s just it, tell it how it is. You can have a clear line between who the enemies are and who the good guys are without going overboard.

Even his horse is angry.

Not to mention the fact that shoving both sides into those very specific corners basically waters down every human character into boring archetypes. The bad guys are bad guys because they’re mean and don’t respect the land or animals. They don’t have character – they’re less entertaining Captain Planet villains. The good guys are good guys because they’re nice and love the land and animals. They don’t have character – they’re less cheesy Planeteers.

Also, Spirit seems to bring down the whole Transcontinental Railroad by freeing some horses. Oh and, yeah, he sets the forest on fire and probably kills many people, but this is a triumphant moment because he saved his homeland from being impeded upon by a train…..for a few months, I guess, because they’re just gonna, ya know….rebuild.

Then, after a brief chase, Spirit heroically defeats the colonel by……jumping over a very wide chasm. This earns his respect, I guess, they nod at each other and then the army leaves, never to bother the kind Native American people ever again. Talk about a neck-snapping 180. He went from mustache-twirling villain to very reasonable gentleman in about a minute.

Yeah, enduring several days of torture without Spirit breaking, managing to escape as well as help another (human) prisoner escape, and pulling off every ridiculous thing in the finale – that wasn’t enough to get the colonel to respect Spirit and back off. Nah. But that was one sick jump, horse. I tip my hat to you.

Spirit: “I’ll never forget that boy, and how we won back our freedom together.”

Seriously, Dreamworks? After you decide to keep in the part of the story of Exodus about mass baby slaughter, you decide to imply that the American Indian Wars were settled and the white man left the lands and the Native Americans alone because a horse crashed a train, caused a fire, and made a big jump? Was this movie meant to be realistic or not? It seems like they were trying their best for realism until the ending.

Happy endings all around. Spirit gets the girl, he and Rain go free, reunite with his herd and that’s about it.

I went from positive back to negative again, didn’t I? I’m sorry.

This movie just didn’t hit with me much. Truth be told, it’s one of the more boring movies I’ve watched in a long time. It’s like they said ‘let’s make a movie about a horse’ and filled in the blanks from there. I don’t even feel like saying this movie was wasted potential, but I can’t see what could’ve been there.

The movie’s not funny, the action’s alright, but it’s also not all that great, the characters are all flat and not memorable. They try their damnedest to make some heartwarming moments, but I was left feeling rather cold. I only felt a little heartwarmed when Spirit hugged Little Creek and that’s only because it’s a horse giving a hug. That, by default, is insanely adorable.

The conflict is serious, but never goes far enough. They starve Spirit and deprive him of water for three days, which would be life-threatening for humans, though I’m not sure if the same could be said of horses. And what are the effects of that that we see? He licks his lips when he sees the colonel drink water. That’s it. They try to break him by riding him, but he kicks their asses. When he finally is kinda broken, it’s not impacting enough and it only lasts all of two minutes before he’s back to throwing people around and escaping.

Yes, he’s ‘the spirit that could not be broken,’ I get it, but when you give someone that moniker and make it his defining trait, you have to get him as close to broken as humanly possible so we can cheer when he rises back up. Make us truly believe that his spirit can’t be broken no matter what. Even when he believed Rain was dead, it wasn’t as impacting as it should have been because we, as an audience, knew she’d live and that they’d reunite.

I can see how some people would enjoy this movie purely for being an easy-to-watch, pretty movie about horses, and I can definitely see the appeal to children, but it missed the mark for me. Would it have actually been much better if it had no dialogue, or at least had no dialogue/narration on the horses? Maybe. I don’t really know for certain. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about. Wouldn’t be the first time.

It’s a shame, really, because I wanted to like this movie. I remember seeing fanvids of it back in the day and it seemed cool. Plus, I love horses, so this should have been my bread and butter, but it just wasn’t.

I feel like I’m going to get some flak for this one because I know that, despite the fact that this movie isn’t really discussed much in animation circles, it’s still near and dear to the hearts of many people. I looked up a handful of reviews of the movie right before posting this, and yeah, all of them were mostly positive. Worst rating I saw was 3.5/5 and even that review barely had anything actually bad to say about it.

If you were able to connect with this movie in a manner in which I wasn’t and saw something there that I couldn’t, more power to you. I’m not criticizing you for liking it, I’m just stating my own opinion.

Recommended Audience: A horse gets shot, but there’s absolutely no blood. There are guns, but they rarely fire. There’s horse ‘torture’ but half of it’s played for laughs and the other half barely qualifies. You don’t even hear anything when they’re destroying their village. No nudity, sex or anything. 6+

Final Notes: In 2017, Spirit earned a spin-off Netflix series…15 years after movie debuted. It’s called Spirit: Riding Free, and from what I’ve read and heard about it, outside of the main character’s parents being Spirit and Rain, the series has nothing to do with this movie and rarely, if ever, shows Spirit. It seems to be successful with four seasons already under its belt, even though it’s barely been a year since it premiered. So if you liked this movie or even if you didn’t, maybe go give that a watch. I might watch it sometime in the future, as I also intend on watching the Disney movie spin-off TV series.

Update: Hey, so I wrote this review five years ago (yeah my uploading practices bite) but a little update on the show. It’s been eight years now and it’s STILL going. (What the heck was I on when I wrote that? It’s been five years since I wrote the review, but the three years since the series came out (when I added the notes), and it has eight seasons. Back to your regularly scheduled jibber jabber.) Which shocked the hell out of me because Netflix drools over that cancellation button.

Not only is the main series still running, but there are apparently now two spin-off series of the main series, a 45 minute long Christmas special AND Dreamworks is releasing a movie version of the TV spin-off in 2021. (Supposedly, there’s even a mobile game of it?)

I couldn’t resist and decided to finally take a peek at the TV series. Apparently, it’s not what I thought it was. I thought this would be a show about a foal or a young horse that kinda took a beat from Disquels and had the original main characters, in this case Spirit and Rain, kinda being side characters as they parent their kid…..but…nope. Spirit and Rain don’t seem to appear (granted, I only looked at the first episode) because they’re acting like this new horse both is Spirit, but isn’t.

It’s a horse that looks and acts exactly like Spirit originally did. The main character human girl, Lucky, even names him Spirit without knowing who his parents are, and Spirit is just a wild horse who isn’t with Spirit or Rain. It’s not even implied that this horse even is the child of Spirit and Rain – I got that from a blurb in the Wiki for the movie. The Wiki page for the series itself doesn’t even mention this.

The show focuses a LOT more on the human characters (of which we have an entirely new cast – no Little Creek or child of Little Creek or anything) than the horses, and the horses are not given voices or narration, which I think works in the show’s favor. This was the second theory I had in speculation of what the show would be with the first being a My Little Pony-esque show where the focus is entirely on the horses and the horses just talk naturally.

So, yeah….this show seems to be just a series about a girl and her horse with the only string tying the two together being that they reused the character model and name of the main character from the movie.

I’m not critiquing the show quite yet, that’ll probably come eventually, but that’s what it appears like to me. Feel free to correct me. Being fair, the quality of the show looks fine, but we’ll have to see how good it is sometime in the future.

Screenshots courtesy of AnimationScreencaps.com


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Pokemon Extravaganza: Movie 09 – Pokemon Ranger and the Prince of the Sea: Manaphy (Sub) Review

Plot: Satoshi, Haruka, Masato and Takeshi stumble upon a water-based circus troupe while traveling and join them for a bit while they perform their shows. However, they’re soon caught up in a web of trouble. The troupe is actually a family of descendants of an ancient race called the water folk. They’re being escorted by the Pokemon Ranger, Jackie, to deliver the egg of the legendary Pokemon, Manaphy, the prince of the sea, to the mysterious sea temple. He’s meant to protect them since they’re being pursued by Phantom – a sea captain who wants Manaphy for himself so it can show him the way to the sea temple, which houses the legendary sea crown that he’s been pursuing for many years.

Things get even more complicated when Manaphy imprints on Haruka as its mother, making his inevitable departure increasingly difficult as they grow closer.

Breakdown: Despite the movie itself being goofy, there apparently aren’t many significant differences between the English and Japanese versions. For the sake of brevity, we’ll be slicing the movie cake into 20 minute pieces.

20 Minute Mark

Pokemon Movie 09 Screen 1

Interestingly, Jack Walker’s name is the same in the original. He even has the same nickname, Jackie.

I really don’t understand the title animation for the Japanese version. First we get a crystal for some reason, a kaleidoscope effect, then we get god awful looking lava, a storm, the storm clearing, then we dive into the ocean, some…DNA….or cells? Or something….making up little lightning balls which go to water and then the title jumps out of the water?

I watched this opening three times just to see if I could make sense of it but I’m lost. The only connection to the movie that I’m getting is the water. Other than that, the best I can speculate is that they’re trying to depict the elements (the crystals are ice, the lava is for fire, the storm is water and lightning, the storm clearing is air.) but what does that have to do with this movie?

It didn’t click before, but the big water orbs that Masato just drank from are made from a Nyoromo/Poliwag or a Nyorobon/Poliwrath’s Water Gun. So my logic about never really being out of water because they always have at least a couple of Water Pokemon on hand holds true.

Lizabeth’s original name is Hiromi. Meredith, Lizabeth’s mother, is originally named Minamo and Kyle, Lizabeth’s dad, is originally named Kai. Ship keeps his name. Interestingly, this shows that Hiromi’s family originally had a water theme to their names. Ship is obviously referencing ships. Hiromi means ‘wide sea’, Minamo means ‘water’s surface’ and Kai means ‘sea’.

This theme might translate a little because Meredith’s ‘mer’ prefix is theorized to be ‘sea’ in French, but Lizabeth doesn’t mean anything related to water (from what I can gather, it means something along the lines of ‘God is my oath’) and Kyle was just given that name because it sounds like Kai. Most of the meanings of Kyle have nothing to do with water, but in Scottish and some other languages, it can be translated as a strait. I’m not sure if I want to give that to them.

Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s a little rude to suddenly pick up Ash and the others with those water orbs. Hope that PokeGear is waterproof and that they have nothing that can be damaged by water in their pockets.

As much as I don’t understand several aspects of this water show, I can’t deny that I would love to see that kind of thing if it was real. I’d love to be a part of it, too. It looks like a lot of fun.

40 Minute Mark

Pokemon Movie 09 Screen 2

Minor quibble, but Jessie’s hair, as seen from above, looks 1000x more ridiculous than it normally does.

In the original, they downright confirm that Haruka and, by extension, probably Masato, are people of the water. Takeshi even states that the memory of the temple must be encoded in their DNA. It’s not a ‘chosen one’ cliché, but it is still insanely convenient and hard to swallow – especially considering it’s never mentioned or explored outside of this movie. Again, this type of storyline would be more suited to Kasumi.

I really want to believe Manaphy just put the dream in her head, but they’re fighting that theory quite a bit.

Nyasu as Musashi is much more entertaining in this version for some reason. Just her mannerisms and expressions coming through Nyasu’s body are so goofy.

Musashi should’ve figured it out that, being a cat, she’s be faster running on all fours.

Nyasu being damn near giddy to skip along in Kojirou’s body is also much funnier than the dub for some reason.

Why didn’t Satoshi use his Ohsubame/Swellow when they were flying away? Seems like Jackie only did that to reveal that 1) He’s Jackie and 2) He’s a Pokemon Ranger.

They’re told that the item in that canister is important and absolutely cannot be damaged, so Pikachu, instead of waiting for Onidrill to land and safely handing it off, jumps from Onidrill’s back around 40 feet in the air and hopes Satoshi catches him.

Even in the original, Manaphy is still only described as being notable for living underwater and being rare.

The fact that Phantom can jump down from huge heights and not die is explained away later by his mechanical exo-skeleton. However, unless he also gave one to his grunt, that guy should at least be dead.

Even explained away by the mechanical exo-skeleton, the CGI in the rock-throwing scene is still appalling.

The joke about the vitamins is an untranslatable….’pun’? I don’t even get it with the subtitles, to be honest. Jackie says ‘What is this? Wanriki? No – Kairiki!’ The notes say that he’s talking about wanryoku, which means physical or brute strength, but he meant to say kairiki, which is superhuman strength. Even reading the Dogasu explanation for this joke doesn’t make much sense to me, except mentioning that kairiki is also Machoke’s Japanese name, and I still don’t get why that’d be funny. If someone can explain why this is a joke, please tell me because I don’t get it.

It didn’t occur to me before, but is this another movie/event in which Satoshi and the others forget they have Pokemon outside of Pikachu? Or at least forget them in situations where they’d be, ya know, useful?

Manaphy is much less annoying crying in its original Japanese voice, but it’s still bloody annoying.

Since I brought up Kasumi earlier and her relationship with Togepi briefly in the dub review, this whole imprinting thing does bring something important to light. This is completely unrelated to the movie, more or less, so feel free to skip if you want.

Pokemon Movie 09 Screen 3

Kasumi had Togepi for a couple hundred episodes or so and yet it never really matured or became independent. It was entirely reliant on Kasumi and Pikachu, and the other Pokemon acting as babysitters whenever needed. Here, Manaphy is very baby-like, but within the time frame of, say, a week or so, it’s leading an army on its own and taking its place as prince of the sea.

This isn’t the only instance of a much faster maturing baby Pokemon either. Didn’t the baby Larvitar Ash had for a bit mature much faster too?

I almost want to say Togepi would’ve matured a lot quicker if Kasumi and Pikachu didn’t coddle it like a baby all the time. Kasumi has even acknowledged that Togepi could battle once, but until Kasumi returns way down the line in Advanced Generation, it does damn near nothing besides be a walking Metronome Deus ex Togepi. Look at its bio for each generation. Half of them amount to ‘it does nothing’ and the other is ‘he does Metronome a billion times then finally evolves into Togetic’.

……..Ramble over. Movie continue.

Thank God they can sacrifice that plainly drawn trailer and not the bus they clearly spent ages designing.

Why does Haruka get pissed when Masato says ‘it’s hard to be a mother’? She didn’t seem to be bothered by that title a moment ago.

I still find it way too convenient, even by Team Rocket standards, for them to have crash landed on that temple.

I don’t get Team Rocket’s original plan. They were going to get in good with Phantom AND take Manaphy? If he ever found out they took Manaphy, he’d hate their guts.

There’s very obviously a door in that wall. You can clearly see the lines. If this was meant to be hidden, they sucked at it. Also, a very conspicuous red button right next to the door outline just further shows that it’s a door.

Still bothers me that they never explain how Phantom knew the lock’s ‘combination’.

Phantom should’ve realized that they were water folk merely from the fact that they knew their way around and knew how to open the door.

The underwater shots of Manaphy annoy me a bit because it doesn’t seem like it ever displaces water. It looks like it’s just flying through the air.

Small detail, but I like that Ship, Minamo and Kai thank their Pokemon for giving them a ride before recalling them. However, I don’t like that no one else does.

Another instance of a foreign-sounding word being replaced with a foreign-sounding word, Samaya, the sea temple, was originally called Acquscia. I honestly can’t remember if they ever said Samaya out loud either.

Hour Mark

Pokemon Movie 09 Screen 4

They needed Water Pokemon to get to the shrine but now they suddenly have boats from nowhere.

I know I said this before, but much of the CGI really looks bad. It ruins some scenes with how clunky and poorly integrated it is. We’re supposed to be marveling at these Whaloh/Wailord as they pop up around the boat and all I’m thinking is ‘I wish the ocean would finish rendering. Someone should tell Nintendo that the Wailoh escaped from the Nintendo DS.’

And then they follow it up with a scene on a reef that looks very beautiful. It’s weird.

Uhhh…..who hired the barbershop quartet to do the music for the emotional ‘Jackie nearly died as a kid’ scene?

I’m gonna sound like a total buzzkill right now, but, Satoshi, hopping on that railing and jumping off into the water is very dangerous. You’re setting a bad example for the kids at home.

Seriously, someone please stop the ‘dooododeedododo’ a capella music. Even outside of that flashback, it does not mesh with Pokemon or this scene.

I love the way Buoysel swims.

Oh yeah, keep that music going in the also-supposed-to-be-emotional scene where Haruka tells Manaphy that she loves it.

Thank God the Lapras are traditional animation. Though, what’s the logic on the decisions on what’s CGI and what’s not?

Hour and Twenty Minute Mark

Pokemon Movie 09 Screen 6

The diamonds and pearls stuff is in both versions, so both versions can bite me.

May’s bandanna comes out of the water bone dry. Not really a note, but I just noticed that.

Manaphy’s voice doesn’t change at all between when it’s underwater and when it surfaces….I’m low on material in this section.

Even the second line about diamonds and pearls is in the original? Double bite me.

Seeing it in action a couple of times, is anyone else a little bothered by stylus ‘capturing’? While traditional capture is very similar, stylus capturing seems like it mind controls the Pokemon being captured.

If Lizabeth’s family wants to keep the traditions and culture of the water folk alive, why has she never been taught their language?

End

Upon second viewing, the climax is actually better than I gave it credit for the first time around.

The original obviously doesn’t have the dumb vitamin joke. Jackie just points out that the mech suit was the trick behind Phantom’s great strength.

The music during the finale where everyone’s super saiyan is also fantastic.

The original ending theme is very beautiful as well.

———————————————–

While this movie still shares about 95% of the problems that enraged me in the dub, I can’t deny that, upon second viewing in the original Japanese, this version resonates with me better….at least in the end.

The first hour and ten-ish minutes is basically the same experience to me, but the climax just feels…better. Maybe I had a better appreciation for the action and visuals the second time around, maybe it was because I wasn’t as angry this time, but the climax seemed more epic, at least in style, than I felt it was in the dub. Even the goodbye with Haruka and Manaphy was much more emotionally impacting than it was in the dub, though that might be because Manaphy just says ‘Goodbye Haruka’ instead of saying May’s name and then calling her Mama.

……And I’ll admit that at least 2% of that problem solving comes from the lack of that vitamin “joke”. I don’t know why that makes me so angry, but…..just…urgh.

Rating: 4.5/10


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Illuminating Illumination – Despicable Me (2010) Review

Rating: 7/10

Plot: An aspiring supervillain, Gru, adopts three young girls to unwittingly help him with his plan to steal the moon. While initially using the girls as tools for his scheme, Gru finds himself rather liking fatherhood, though he’d be hardpressed to admit it. Still, the life of a villain and the life of a father don’t mix. It’s either shoot for the moon or follow your heart.

Breakdown: Illumination! They’re sure a company alright……

I have nothing against Illumination, really I don’t, but they always seemed like the animation company out of the big-wigs to be solely focused on money. There’s nothing wrong with that, they are a company afterall, but there’s something inherently…..artificial about nearly all of their movies. There’s never been much heart to them. And that’s before we get to the over-commercialization of nearly all of their properties. Do I need to bring up The Lorax being whored out to any company who would give them a buck, including a damn car company? The cognitive dissonance there was astounding.

And no.

No.

I’m not forgetting the minions.

It’s hard to avoid the flood of minions that came as a result of this franchise to the point where even a movie was made based on the little yellow pill bugs that ended up being, and I’m not kidding here, Illumination’s most successful movie to date. I don’t dislike the minions, I actually find them kinda cute and funny, but oversaturation can make anything a living nightmare.

The minions have become so front and center to this franchise that most of the current DVD and Blu-Ray box covers for the movies either feature them prominently with Gru and the girls in the background or it’s just the minions. There was one box art cover that was literally just one minion taking up the entire space.

But hey, they make the money.

Illumination is really is good at making money. Even their worst film by far, Hop, which I won’t be reviewing because it’s not animated, made more than three times its budget back. They’re a company that tends to know what they’re doing. They’re not out to make incredibly impacting stories or mind-blowing cinematic experiences – they’re out to make money. I can’t damn them for that, but I can give appropriate criticisms to their work.

Which leads us to our feature film.

Despicable Me is another one of those movies people would probably be surprised to hear that I’ve never seen before now. I never had much of an interest is all. No one’s ever told me that I had to see this movie for any reason or heard so many people quoting it or referencing it that my curiosity peaked. I’ve seen bits and pieces on TV before and it failed to hold my attention long enough for me to stay on that channel.

Who can really blame me? I mean, look at that plot synopsis and tell me you can’t give me a full explanation of what happens in this movie just by reading that paragraph. Not that being predictable is entirely a bad thing as long as you add substance and style to it, but this movie really does hit every beat you expect it to. About the only thing that surprised me even a little was that Vector, the antagonist, was actually a serious antagonist and THE main antagonist for the movie.

Not that that counted for much either considering he was a very predictable antagonist once it’s revealed that he is a serious threat, and that happened very early in the movie.

I actually got annoyed at the predictability at one point. Vector kidnaps the girls and holds them hostage so Gru will give him the moon. I said, out loud, “He’s not going to give the girls back once the moon is his, is he?” He, of course, doesn’t, but what irked me was, as he revealed he was doing this and was leaving Gru to his own devices, he yelled out ‘UNPREDICTABLE!’ I nearly had the pause the movie there because I wanted to slap somebody. Yes, it’s so unpredictable to do the exact thing expected of the villain in that exact situation.

Then, later, there’s a scene where Gru’s trying to save the girls from Vector’s ship midair and again, I said, out loud, “Vector’s going to show up and grab the girls before they jump, isn’t he?” Sure enough, I was right again.

While it was also par for the course that Gru had a somewhat sad childhood, that being his mother rarely ever paying attention to him, I felt like the role of his mother was kinda weird. They pepper flashbacks throughout the movie of Gru trying to impress his mother and her responding with ‘Meh.’ over and over, to everything. So, of course, he develops a complex about it. It’s even kinda implied that maybe Gru would’ve become a legitimate scientist or astronaut or something if his mother actually supported him. Instead, he became a supervillain and she’s still not impressed.

She randomly appears in the middle of the movie in present day, somehow knowing Gru adopted three girls, and the first thing she does when she arrives is show the girls a bunch of Gru’s baby pictures, which doesn’t line up with what we knew of her to this point. How do you go from a mother who seems to give zero shits about her son to her instantly visiting when she finds out he adopted kids and jumping at the chance to show them a ton of pictures of lil Gru?

Finally, she shows up at the end of the movie to watch the girls do ballet and she tells Gru he’s a good parent, probably even better than she was, and…I guess that’s the end of that arc? It felt like they skipped a bunch of development there. Just she was a crappy mom and now she’s a good grandma and passable mom?

So…..guess what the movie ends with.

A dance party.

Because someone at some point during the 2000s made a rule that all mediocre animated movies have to end in dance parties.

I want to make it clear that I didn’t dislike this movie. I knew what I was getting into from the start and it pretty much met expectations.

It’s an okay movie. The story’s predictable as hell, but the comedy is decent. The heartwarming moments go toe-to-toe with the sad moments, but neither really go far enough to pluck any heartstrings. There is nothing explicitly bad about the movie outside of its predictability. Even its art and animation stand up pretty well after nearly a decade. The voice acting is also pretty good. Steve Carell as Gru really ran with his character and even though the girls could sometimes be obnoxious, they were pretty realistically portrayed and well acted.

In fact, let me give this movie some more slack. There were some aspects that strayed away from the norm that made this experience a little better for me.

First of all, even though the minions are still, well, minions, it’s very obvious that Gru cares about all of these little guys. He treats them like family instead of abusing them left and right like most villains would do. I really appreciated that. The abusive asshole aspect would have made it harder to accept Gru as a good guy and would have made the movie feel more mean-spirited.

Secondly, despite his follies, Gru is a very competent supervillain. It’s just that circumstances tend to kick him in the ass sometimes.

Thirdly, they didn’t viciously harp on the girls’ orphan status as much as I thought they would. They had every opportunity in the world to play the ‘our parents used to (blank)’ card many times and they didn’t even really bring up their biological parents. To be honest, I’m not even sure if these girls are related at all and they seem to be the only kids at this orphanage barring one other girl we see in the box of shame.

They did kinda play up the fact that their orphanage is shitty place, though. The person who runs the orphanage is a total bitch who forces the girls to sell cookies door to door for the sake of the orphanage’s profit. She’s not physically abusive, but she is emotionally abusive. I wouldn’t say she’s bad enough for me to get into hatred territory, though. She’s a bitch, no doubt about that, but it’s like they wanted Delores Umbridge and got her more mellow second cousin twice removed.

Finally, Dr. Nefario, Gru’s right-hand man and head scientist, had a pretty good role and relationship with Gru. He didn’t hate the girls or even hate that Gru was showing signs that he wanted to be a dad – he just knew what their goals were and wanted to keep Gru on track. I do kinda resent him for sending the girls away behind Gru’s back, but he randomly decided to help save the girls in the end so I guess it’s all good.

In the end, it’s very much an okay movie. I probably won’t get the urge to watch it again anytime soon, but I would consider leaving it on if I saw it while flipping through channels.

I suppose I picked a good time to watch this, too, considering that the latest Despicable Me movie, Minions: The Rise of Gru, is coming out this July and there’s a Despicable Me 4 on the production slate down the line (Even though, if you count the Minions movies as being Despicable Me movies, which you probably should, that means that title should technically be Despicable Me 6….Yikes.)

Recommended Audience: There’s some questionable humor here and there, usually relegated to potty humor, but there is one joke where Edith, the middle kid, gets caught in an iron maiden, there’s a puddle of ‘blood’ that pools as a result and Gru brushes it off. It’s just her punctured juice box, but I was still pretty shocked they put in such a joke.

There’s also a moment where Gru makes the girls shaped pancakes and Edith’s (It should be noted that Edith has a thing for violence and the like) is a dead body that I’m almost certain was meant to be dead from a gunshot wound considering the hole in its chest…

Other than that, nothing really. 7+


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Pokemon Extravaganza: Movie 09 (Dub) Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea Review

Rating: 3.5/10

Plot: Ash, May, Max and Brock meet a girl named Lizabeth and her family who are all performers who put on aquatic shows in floating spheres of water. The group learns that the performers are secretly protecting and transporting a Manaphy egg to a legendary sea temple with the help of Pokemon Ranger Jackie. May accidentally hatches the egg, and the legendary prince of the sea assumes May is its mother. As May and Manaphy bond on their way to the sea temple, a greedy pirate named Phantom stays hot on their tail, ready to follow them to the sea temple and steal the priceless sea crown.

Breakdown: Ah, our first venture into TPCI dubbing territory (Known as PUSA back when this was dubbed), as well as a movie I know really nothing about outside of it having a Pokemon Ranger and Manaphy.

I’ll admit, I’m kinda worried about what this has in store. I do like the concept of Pokemon Rangers (I’ve played a couple of the games and enjoyed them fine) but I don’t like Manaphy really…..at all. Hopefully this movie will change my mind, though from what I’ve heard of this movie from Dogasu’s comparison, it’s a laughably stupid movie at several points. So much so that they suggested this movie be up for the LittleKuriboh treatment.

Well, I guess the only way I’ll know is if I try.

———————————-

We start off with the typical ‘World of Pokemon’ spiel with a new narrator who doesn’t sound too far off from the old one. It’s all much of the same, but I will mention we see Ruby again (Yay!) battling Rebecca from movie 07….so that’s kinda random.

And, of course, when we get to Ash, we sing his praises and then follow up by him just ‘being joined by his friends.’

After that’s said and done, we get to the movie where we see a Manaphy egg being poorly animated through a whirlpool. It continues to flow through the ocean, but I really can’t get over how awkward this egg looks. It looks more like a CGI balloon somehow flying around underwater than an egg floating around through the water.

The Water Pokemon festival we’re treated to is suddenly halted by the intrusion of a Playstation 1 cutscene as planes fly overhead, focusing their searchlights on the egg. Back underwater, all of the Pokemon are again spooked by a giant underwater tank thing that I could swear was designed by a Final Fantasy villain.

The Playstation 1 cutscene continues as they grab the egg with an extendable arm on the tank. The tank/sub thing surfaces and—okay, just please stop with the bad CGI. Outside of the human characters, everything in these shots so far has been either regular CGI or cel-shaded CGI. The cel-shaded shots don’t look bad, but the regular CGI is just awful. Please stop.

And to be completely honest, CGI of this caliber after they’ve been showing increasingly better work over the course of the movies is just unacceptable. Did their budget get slashed or something?

The team of pirates and their Pirate-Captain-y leader marvel at the egg with the captain stating that it will fulfill his desire of a sea crown. One of his crew reveals himself to be a spy named Jack (Nicknamed Jackie) Walker and takes the egg away from him.

He has belts on his beard because reasons.

Already, the voices aren’t that good. The pirate captain’s okay, but he can’t sound angry at all and Jackie is going the opposite direction by hamming it up. Oh and he can also run on walls and bend steel bars with a single kick like they were made of play-doh. I just thought I’d mention that.

Jackie continues to get away because bumbling goons were never good at chase scenes. They seemingly corner him with the captain releasing his Pinsir and Parasect to attack. Wow, guys. We’ve found the second character to ever use a Pokemon from the Paras line. Give him a round of mild applause.

Jackie uses his capture stylus to wrangle up a nearby Mantine and uses it to escape.

We then get our title screen, which is animated better than the previous sequence, but it’s hard to tell because it’s so dark, so little is going on and I still have to mark it down for being flooded with a dark urine color motif.

Now to our heroes who….I wish would stop talking. To everyone open to watching anime dubbed in other languages besides Japanese, do you know that feeling when you watch a show and like it in one version but then you watch it in another and, despite being fine, it just sounds really wrong? Those times where you’re so used to it being in Japanese or English or some other language that hearing it in a completely different language, no matter how well it’s done, you just can’t get into it? I hope that’s what’s going on with me right now as I transfer from 4Kids to TPCI.

This seriously is, outside of a few scenes here and there of Diamond and Pearl, the first time I’m really sitting down and listening to these new voices. I have never followed Pokemon beyond about mid Hoenn. I never thought the day would come where I would be yearning for 4Kids, but dammit I’m so much more used to their dub. I’ve been watching that dub since I was nine. It’s really difficult to work around.

And I’m going to be completely biased here and give my breakdown on the voices of each character.

Ash – Veronica Taylor → Sarah Natochenny. Sounds, surprisingly, more realistically boy-like than Veronica Taylor’s portrayal, but she also sounds a hell of a lot raspier. It’s a toss-up.

Brock – Eric Stuart → Bill Rogers. Why is he so nasally, and why does he sound like he’s doing a bad Butch impression?

May – Veronica Taylor → Michele Knotz. Fine voice, but not fitting for May. It belongs more with some ultra-big-eyed moe character – not quick-tempered May.

Max – Amy Birnbaum → Kayzie Rogers. Now that I’m listening to it fully instead of the snippet I listened to after dub Movie 08, I guess it’s fine for him to have such a dorky voice, but it really is higher pitched, nasally and mostly unpleasant. Plus, half the time he loses the dorky sound and sounds more like an energetic old lady.

These voices may grow on me. I may just be experiencing the jarring shock everyone else went through when this first happened back when TPCI first took over, but I never did since I mostly stopped watching around that time. Hopefully I’ll adapt just fine.

We’ll move on to Team Rocket later. For now, onto the movie.

Ash and the others are, SURPRISE, lost again. How…new…They’re all baking out in the harsh sun and now they’re out of water. Ash and the others spot some weird floating orbs of water and find a trainer and her Politoed training Pokemon within the orbs.

So, instead of asking what the hell is going on, Max immediately asks the girl if they can have some water. She agrees and the others run up to introduce themselves when we see that the reason the orbs of water are floating is because of her Medicham and Meditite psychically maintaining them.

Brock magically deduces that this girl’s name is Lizabeth (because she’s too good to put that E at the beginning) and that she’s the star of the Marina Underwater Pokemon Show, because he creepily knows everything about even semi-famous women. This seems like they’re directly ripping off from the last movie when Brock gushed and prattled on about Kidd. Unless this is just something Brock does overall now.

Lizabeth introduces them to her family – her grandpa, Ship, her father, Kyle, who sounds like he’s doing his damnedest to make his voice as low and emotionless as possible, and her mother, Meredith.

They load up on water, which I still don’t quite understand. I don’t remember where I brought this up, but I have mentioned in the past that it doesn’t seem possible for the group to ever be out of water as long as they have Pokemon who know Water Gun. Yeah, it’s a little gross, but it’s better than dying.

Lizabeth’s Buizel runs up to a loft and turns on the light for a small container, revealing the Manaphy egg from before. May gives it a quick glance and Kyle quickly closes the curtain and walks away. Great place to hide things you don’t want others to see – In plain sight in a small area where you’re inviting strangers.

Ash asks what they do in their show, and Ship says it’s better to show them, which triggers our opening credits. No theme song again. 😦

They show the….show, which is kinda like a mix between a circus and a water ballet. Also, we see a guy in a Sharpedo costume ‘swallow’ a bunch of Remoraid in floating water orbs and then ‘poop’ them out as Wooper. Stay classy, Pokemon.

By the way, it’s obvious that the Psychic Pokemon aren’t helping the humans move here yet they can somehow jump out of the water like they’re dolphins.

They bring Ash and the others into the water orbs to be part of the show (How are they all breathing in there?) and with one Psychic burst of the orbs, the show ends.

At least I can say this is a more original opening credits sequence than the usual battles or doing practically nothing.

Buizel steals the egg and hands it to May who again wonders what it is before a clown grabs it and gives it back to Lizabeth.

Now for Team Rocket’s voice analysis.

James: Eric Stuart → James Carter Cathcart; known better as Jimmy Zoppi, voice of Weevil (YGO) Tarb (Mew Mew Power) and yes, Gary. James is now voiced….by Gary.

I will be fair here and say Mr. Cathcart has plenty of range as I never would’ve guessed James was using a voice anywhere near Gary’s or any other role of his……but, my God, James sounds horrible. Eric Stuart was not the absolute original English voice of James. That honor goes to Ted Lewis, who used a more suave and serious take on the character. Fitting because that’s basically what he was in the first handful of episodes, the only ones he dubbed.

Eric Stuart brought a great mixture of sounding suave when the time called for it but also having a fairly good ‘goofy idiot’ voice.

This version is full blast ‘I’m a complete moron.’ I listened to his voice in this scene several times wracking my brain because I knew he reminded me of something so much but I couldn’t place it. Then it suddenly hit me.

Holy crap, he sounds like a slightly more energetic Droopy Dog.

Listen to him in this scene and watch a Droopy Dog clip. Tell me I’m hearing things.

Jessie: Rachel Lillis → Michele Knotz. Because I guess they’re keeping up the tradition of multiple roles per one voice actor, Michele Knotz is voicing both May and Jessie. I have to say, she does a much better job voicing Jessie instead of May, but, like May, she still makes Jessie sound a bit too nice.

Meowth: Maddie Blaustein → James Carter Cathcart, whom I’m just going to refer to as Jimmy Zoppi since that’s what I know him best as. Again with the dual role tradition, James and Meowth are voiced by the same person. I have to say Jimmy Zoppi does a much better job voicing Meowth than he does voicing James. He does a pretty good job here overall, but no one will be able to replace Maddie Blaustein as the true Meowth voice to me. Being fair, I feel like, had she not passed away, Maddie would have gone through whatever hoops she needed to in order to keep voicing Meowth.

After spying on May and the egg, James shows Jessie and Meowth a Team Rocket Gazette, which I guess is a magazine that updates all of the Team Rocket grunts on special items and Pokemon that are wanted at the time…..Criminal mastermind Giovanni is. He explains that a man named Phantom, the pirate captain from before, and by the way what a beautifully cliché name you have, is pursuing the egg, and Team Rocket wants to call Phantom with the tip in hopes of getting a reward. Yeah, because Giovanni wouldn’t want that egg. Oh no sirree.

Wait…..Why are Jessie and James and their Meowth balloon in this magazine? Why are they not in the least bit focusing on the fact that they’re being given a spot in this magazine? Why is there a small child in this magazine? What is this thing!?

They call him and drop the tip as the convoy moves on.

Lizabeth, really wanting to keep the egg safe and secret, puts it on a table behind a curtain….again. Guys, curtains are not the pinnacle of security or secrecy. Try a safe, a lockbox, a cookie jar, a cardboard box; anything but an easily movable somewhat translucent curtain.

Later that night, Buizel gets the egg again because curtains.

He presses the little button on the canister which makes it glow again, but this time it glows much brighter, throwing May into a vision. I’m going to guess that this movie is skewing main characterness to May like Max was kinda the protagonist of Jirachi: Wish Maker, right?

In her vision, May floats around under (pink) water with a bunch of Water Pokemon when she sees a huge underwater tower that is later revealed to be the titular sea temple. Manaphy shows up and swims all around her before going to the temple. She tries to call it back to her, but May suddenly wakes up.

Later, at lunch, May tells everyone about her dream. Lizabeth and her mother explain that Lizabeth has had that same dream before since they’re from a nearly wiped out civilization called ‘the people of the water’. The group clamors and says that’s amazing even though they haven’t been told what the people of the water even are yet.

Meanwhile, back with Team Rocket, they break into the RV and try to steal the egg.

Meowth: “Not anudda egg!” Am I missing something? A) This is the egg they were looking for. B) What first egg is he talking about and why is he upset over it?

They all touch the canister, causing it to glow and when the light dies down they find they’ve all switched bodies. Because we haven’t done that trope in Pokemon yet, so why not? And of course make their own voices come out of each others bodies too because that never made sense.

Meowth is in James’ body, Jessie’s in Meowth’s body and James is in Jessie’s body.

Back with the group, they explain that the people of the water were basically aquatic nomads who lived alongside Water Pokemon. As a show of gratitude to the Water Pokemon, they built the sea temple that their people see in these mysterious dreams. They assume that May, and by extension Max, might be descendants of the people of the water because she had the same dream, but I think we can all conclude that she had the dream because Manaphy put it into her mind.

The gang spots Team Rocket as they return from lunch and they do their (different?) motto. They then fly away with the egg on their pedal-powered balloon thing. Ash tries to shoot it down with Pikachu, but the clown from before, who reveals himself to be Jackie, tells him not to due to the egg. Instead he ‘captures’ a nearby Fearow to follow them. Ash sends up Pikachu with Fearow, and he successfully grabs the canister while Fearow does what all Flying Pokemon are meant to do – pop Team Rocket’s balloon.

I know I’m out of the Poke-loop, but why do Ash, Max, May and Brock know what a Pokemon Ranger is? It’s a bit understandable that Team Rocket knows, but how do Ash and Co. know?

Jackie explains that the canister is holding a Manaphy egg, a Pokemon that is only described as being very rare and living underwater (hoo boy, we’re really getting creative with these Legendaries). He’s been protecting the egg until it hatches with the help of the Marina group so he can bring it to the sea temple. Suddenly, Phantom and his Playstation helicopters show up to take the egg. They run off and a Beedrill very nearly gouges Ship in the face, holy shit, and Phantom jumps down from his helicopter and dies….Oh excuse me. I was reading the realistic version of the script. He’s fine and chases after them on foot.

Tell me how Ship doesn’t have a new hole in his head right now.

Jackie and Ash pull a switch right in front of Phantom’s face (gee, why did Jackie suddenly take the time out to cover the egg with a cloth? Why did they both go behind that huge rock? And where did that other boy go? Oh well, get back here with that egg you totally have, Jackie!) and we get some slapstick a la Phantom. Because nothing says ‘tension’ like a pirate villain who partakes in slapstick.

Phantom can somehow lift a giant (horrible) CGI boulder above his head and throw it 50 feet through the air with Jackie on it. It doesn’t do anything to him, but he does that.

Back with Ash, who has met back up with May and Max, they are confronted by another grunt and his Beedrill. Ash has the egg knocked out of his hands by the Beedrill’s Sludge Bomb, but May catches it, making it her responsibility now.

Phantom confronts May because I guess Jackie lost sight of him somehow (he was still right in front of Phantom even after he threw the boulder) and after a struggle, the lid pops off of the container, sending the egg flying. May catches it again and Manaphy hatches.

I like this shot of May because the way her mouth is drawn reminds me of Sapphire (May’s Manga counterpart) since she has a single fang.

Manaphy starts bawling because babies. Congrats everyone – we now have a replacement Togepi. Whoohoo.

By the way, I’m not really a fan of how Manaphy looks. Not only is it yet another small and cutesy legendary, but the ‘eyelashes’ and shape are just weird to me. And of course the high-pitched voice and crying….

They manage to escape Phantom and his cronies, and May is able to calm Manaphy as they ride in the trailer. Manaphy starts to sleep so Merideth asks if she can relieve May for a bit. She agrees, but uh oh. Not the mama!………Did I seriously make a Dinosaurs reference? One that works? Do I get a badge of honor now or something?

After all of 1.5 seconds of trying to quell Manaphy’s cries, and by that I mean saying “No, not again! Stop! Please?”, Merideth passes Manaphy back to May. Boy, you must’ve been one hell of a mother to baby Lizabeth.

Back for more Togepi-ism, it’s revealed that, since May was the first person Manaphy saw when it hatched, it’s taken May to be its mother.

Phantom shows back up and tries to stop the convoy with cables attached to the helicopters. They jump to the truck and release the trailer, sending the trailer careening over the edge of a cliff and losing Phantom.

It’s at this point where you seriously realize that, yeah, this pretty much is the arrangement of Jirachi: Wish Maker – just replace Jirachi with Manaphy, Max with May and the brother/best friend bond with that of a parent-child and it’s the same thing.

Back with Team Rocket who somehow landed right on the building that the group was headed to, they wake to find they’re back to normal again. Why did they do that switch and what caused them to turn back? Being too far away from Manaphy?

Also, I guess I never really got to this part in the series. I remember James getting a Mime Jr., but now he’s a comic relief Pokemon who bursts out of his ball without warning to…..just mimic people? And holy crap, he does not need to be imitating another comic relief Pokemon (Wobbuffet). This is further compounded when James and Jessie put Wobbuffet and Mime Jr. away at the same time. It’s like it’s a subtle acknowledgment that this shtick is incredibly old.

I never thought about this before either, but if Mr. Mime and Mime Jr. are supposed to be mimes, why do they talk?

I’m just now noticing that even the 2D art and animation for this movie is lower than it usually is. Certainly not even touching what they accomplished in movie 08. I’d even go so far as to say, at times, it’s worse than the TV show. Especially when they focus on Team Rocket.

The group makes it into the ancient building, somehow not noticing that the helicopter and Phantom are hot on their tails. Using his magic ‘people of the water’ bracelet, Ship activates a glowy combination lock for a hidden door in the wall. Following soon after, Phantom uses a broken bracelet he somehow has and also activates the lock. However, they don’t show him actually putting in the combination and there’s no way for him to have known one, so how he really got in is beyond me.

Using their Water Pokemon, the group travels through a waterway to another part of the building. After some crazy flat voice acting by Ship and Merideth as they recall their Pokemon, the group enters a beautiful cathedral-like area. Lizabeth and her family explain that the sea temple is called Samaya, and that it is perfectly hidden from those not a part of the people of the water due to the fact that it blends in perfectly with the water.

And dear God, I swear Kyle is getting worse and worse with his voice acting by the minute.

The sea temple holds an item called the sea crown that many people have tried and failed to steal. Many years ago, the temple broke away from it’s original resting spot and started traveling with the tides, making it even more difficult to find. However, the temple is said to be made visible during a full eclipse.

In order to actually find it, you need a Manaphy. The Manaphy of the world have taken the sea temple as their home, and every Manaphy is born with the innate ability to find it. That’s why Phantom is after Manaphy. He doesn’t really want Manaphy – he wants to find the temple and steal the crown.

Ash: “So who is that guy?”

Jackie: “Phantom the pirate. He’s one mean dude.” TPCI: they’re one bad writing staff.

After Team Rocket pathetically grovels to do the lowest of grunt work for Phantom, we see that Phantom has utilized high-tech scanning equipment to analyze the building. They reveal that there are many water routes underneath the building that they may have used to escape and it’ll be very difficult to find which way they went. Phantom doesn’t care because he’s already set a trap for them wherever they’ll end up and claims it’s just a waiting game now.

We actually get one kinda funny scene when Team Rocket, having overheard the conversation, starts clamoring over the sea crown. One of Phantom’s cronies and his Chatot (because he’s a pirate and needs a parrot) glare back at Team Rocket as they laugh and they awkwardly go back to work. It’s not the most hilarious scene in the world, but I have frequently questioned why no one ever seems to hear Team Rocket when they say suspicious things like that, and it was nice to have a scene where they joke about it.

Back with the group, Jackie thanks Ash and co. for their help so far, but says once they get off the boat they’ll be leaving them behind because bringing Manaphy back to the sea temple is a Pokemon Ranger’s job and he doesn’t want them getting any more involved than they already are. Even though you’d think leaving would be ill-advised given that Manaphy is greatly attached to May. But I guess it doesn’t matter too much since Manaphy will part ways with May soon enough anyway.

Sure enough, when they get out of the tunnels, Ship gets his boat out of dock and Lizabeth and her family as well as Jackie take Manaphy and proceed to set sail. I should mention that three older guys take care of Ship’s ship while he’s traveling and they seem like complete fanboys of his for some reason. *shrug*

As predicted, Manaphy starts wailing as soon as they leave port and May feels an odd feeling in her heart as she watches the boat leave. Are they seriously playing her up as being one of the people of the water or are they establishing some mystic motherly link between her and Manaphy?

The three nameless fanboys encourage May and the others to follow them anyway, and they agree. Thanks for serving some purpose that kinda wasn’t needed because this whole scene seems like padding, nameless fanboys!

As they run towards the boat, Manaphy starts flipping out and glows. It touches one of its weird head tentacle things to Jackie’s head and the other shoots red lightning through the water and onto the dock where Ash steps on it. After it dies down, we see Jackie and Ash have switched bodies.

I’m sorry, is there some point to this power? Like, at all? Because it just seems like an excuse to stop the plot, pad the movie some more and try to make weird jokes that don’t work.

Jackie explains that this power is called Heart Swap and that it uses it to escape danger…..How…does switching people’s bodies….make it escape danger?

Case and point – the very first example of this happening was Team Rocket switching bodies. That didn’t prevent it from getting kidnapped because the three people switching bodies were all people that wanted to steal it.

In this example, sure, I guess it prevented it from getting separated from May, but that’s really only because A) Lizabeth and her family were polite enough to decide to get Ash and Jackie back to normal by bringing everyone on board and waiting out the effects and B) They don’t know what happens when two switched people are extremely far apart. Though, if my guess on what happened with Team Rocket was right, they’d just switch back. If they wanted to, they could just say ‘sucks to be you, Ash and Jackie. We’ll run to the temple and back and you’ll probably be back to normal after some time.’

I guess Ash could try jumping off the boat with Manaphy so they have no choice but to turn back, but without his Corphish, I don’t think he’d be able to get away very well. He doesn’t know how to use a Ranger Stylus to capture a Pokemon to help him either. Plus, that might put Manaphy in danger for literally no other reason than ‘we wanna go have an adventure.’

Also, Lizabeth suddenly blurts out that Manaphy are known as the Prince(s) of the Sea. Thanks for that clunky dialogue/exposition, Lizabeth.

After cuddling with Manaphy, it suddenly reveals that it can mimic some words with its first word being ‘Happy,’ and it quickly mimics even more words from Ash, Brock and Max. So, its two main impressive abilities are causing people and Pokemon to switch bodies temporarily and…..talking.

I’ve already pointed out how disappointed I am in the former, but the latter…I know it’s not a legit ‘power’ but so far that’s one of the only things this Pokemon can do that most others can’t. But it’s not impressive in the least given that, despite not being the norm, many other Pokemon can talk.

Getting the obvious example of Meowth off the table, and that’s more impressive given that he’s a regular Pokemon who struggled through hell to learn how to do that, most legendaries can talk or otherwise speak through telepathy (Mewtwo, Lugia, Entei, and Jirachi) and there are other Pokemon, mostly featured in movies, that aren’t legendary and can talk in this same manner, such as Slowking and Lucario. Hell, this very movie features a Chatot – a parrot Pokemon who has been mimicking human speech this whole time.

I was disappointed enough with Jirachi and his ‘I steal shit’ “wish-granting” ability. Please tell me Manaphy has more impressive abilities than this.

Kyle walks out and—dude, seriously, someone fire his voice actor. I couldn’t sound as bored as this guy if this movie was about watching rocks erode in real time.

He stops the boat and explains that it’s time for Manaphy to be released into the ocean so it can choose its own path. May agrees and releases Manaphy into the water. Manaphy happily jumps through the water and the group continues…..their….

Pokemon movie 09 screen 1

….jour……

Pokemon movie 09 screen 2

……………Ash….buddy…..

Pokemon movie 09 screen 3

……you okay? You look….kinda spacey……do you need to sit down?…..Ash?

Pokemon movie 09 screen 4

……….Okay then, you probably just need a minute. A quick segue into the next scene should make you feel better.

Lizabeth and her family take Ash and the others down to the hull where they reveal a glass viewing port to watch the Water Pokemon and Manaphy.

We cut through dusk, night then the next day without any plot advancement, but I do have something to say during Jackie’s para-sailing scene – Ms. Natochenny, please tone down the deep raspiness of Ash’s voice. I feel like you’re going to blow out a vocal cord.

Really, the past three minutes or so is nothing but dicking around in the water with Water Pokemon. If this was any other movie I’d say it’s to show off the CGI, but oh god why?

Ash: “Hey, so why’d you become a Pokemon Ranger in the first place, Jackie?”

Jackie: “I was a kid.” ….Most people were, Jackie. Maybe start off this story with the less awkward “When I was a kid….”

Jackie explains that he got caught in a terrible snow storm up in the mountains as a child. He managed to find a cave to take shelter in, but was still so cold that he feared it was the end of him. Suddenly, a bunch of migrating forest Pokemon such as Swablu and Furret gathered around him to keep him warm. He wanted to be a Pokemon Ranger ever since.

Wait, that doesn’t really explain why he specifically wanted to be a Pokemon Ranger. Also, Jackie pronounces Pokemon ‘Pokeymon’…..That has nothing to do with anything either, but it’s irking me.

More dicking around in the water.

The next night it becomes painfully obvious (no pun intended?) that we’re getting to the peak of May and Manaphy’s friendship when she teaches it to say ‘I love you.’ Seriously, it’s a little annoying how blatantly this is trying to rip-off the Max/Jirachi friendship from movie 06 (And it’s also a little paranoia-ly funny that this movie, 9 is 6 upside down.) Gee, I wonder if May is soon going to come to the realization that she’s going to need to part ways with Manaphy and someone will give her a pep talk about it.

LAPRAS! ❤

…..*cough* Sorry….I love Lapras.

Another scene that is basically just dicking around. I know they’re really meant to show how attached May and Manaphy are becoming, but you can do that without constant *Manaphy being cute* *May/Manaphy cuddles* wash, rinse, repeat stuff.

Not like there’s any tension anyway. We know Phantom isn’t following them because Jackie’s been on constant lookout for helicopters. It’s not like Phantom stated he had a trap laid for them already, nor has it been established that Phantom has easy access to an underwater tank thing. Not like Jackie was on it when he was undercover or anything. Not like they have sonar that, while following Manaphy, should also easily detect the sub. No sirree.

May overhears Jackie asking Ash to help separate May and Manaphy because he worries Manaphy won’t go home if he gets too attached to May. May comes into the room and says not to worry about that, but Jackie asserts that the separation must happen. Manaphy is the prince of the sea, and it’s his responsibility to lead all of the Water Pokemon at the sea temple – What? Since when?

From the way you guys were talking earlier, it sounded like there were a bunch of Manaphy at the sea temple. Why is this one specifically destined to be leader? Where are Manaphy’s real parents? Did it just spawn from nothing? Why wasn’t the egg anywhere near the sea temple to start out with? Where did this thing come from?

It now makes perfect sense that they gave Manaphy the ability to talk. What better way to juice some more emotion from this forced separation than having Manaphy keeping parroting ‘Happy’ and ‘Love you’ over and over?

May runs off crying at Jackie’s words and Manaphy swimming around outside of the glass. Lizabeth tries to console her by saying in a totally not caring voice ‘I know it’s hard.’ Then May completely breaks down sobbing in her arms.

Hey, what do ya know? They are being followed Phantom in his underwater tank thing. Who woulda thunk?

That night, they stop for a while and Manaphy starts singing on a rock, calling the Water Pokemon of the sea to gather around him…..It’s not a terrible song, but it’s definitely not giving off the striking beauty I imagine they wanted from this scene. Manaphy’s voice just sounds a bit too whiny for that. I know during the singing parts that they’re using Manaphy’s Japanese voice, but that doesn’t change my opinion.

Lizabeth then gives May her bracelet, which is actually a mark of the people of the water. I feel like this movie would’ve fit better if Misty were still around. Who better to be a pseudo person of the water than someone who strives to be a Water Pokemon master? Then again, her having two baby Pokemon who grew attached to her as a mother through imprinting might be incredibly redundant.

The next day, Manaphy comes up from dicking around in the water to eat lunch and it starts looking for May. As a way to keep them separated, Ash lets out all of his Pokemon so they can dick around in the water with Manaphy. *sigh*

May tries to put her bandana on, but it flies off with the wind. Manaphy, seeing this, goes after her bandana, even though it keeps getting carried away by various Water Pokemon. And because the most intelligent thing you can do with a baby Pokemon who is leading you to a legendary sea temple that hardly anyone ever gets to see while you’re being pursued by a bunch of criminals who want both Manaphy and the sea crown that is at said sea temple is lose sight of him for hours on end……..they lose Manaphy for hours on end. They decide that they have to find him with a submarine.

May blames herself for Manaphy’s disappearance, claiming it probably ran away because of how she was treating it….Uh….huh? Treating it how? Last time she saw Manaphy, she ran off crying. Last time Manaphy looked for May, Ash distracted it. She never once yelled at him or pushed him away or anything.

Phantom begins to make his move, and Manaphy manages to finally retrieve May’s bandana. Ya know, May doesn’t seem too attached to that bandanna. She loses it, doesn’t say anything about it and walks around like nothing happened.

After some nauseating CGI Pokemon shots and May crazily talking to a window, Manaphy somehow manages to find them. However, they quickly get caught in a riptide. Lizabeth loses control of the submarine and radio contact with Ship, Kyle and Merideth. Manaphy, who has no problem in the current, directs them away. Not like that matters because Lizabeth clearly said she lost control of the submarine, meaning she can’t direct it anywhere and they can’t follow Manaphy.

So they follow Manaphy and make it safely out of the riptide. *cough*

Because they managed to time this right as a lunar eclipse was occurring, Ash and the others vanish underwater. As the eclipse starts, the moon turns red, which somehow turns the water purple…..oh I get it….red plus blue equals purple…..

The sea temple is revealed to all, and they finally notice that Phantom is following them.

I don’t know why, but everyone’s VA is being just terrible in these past ten minutes or so. They’ve actually been pretty decent (major exclusion being Kyle’s VA) up until now. I don’t know what happened.

They arrive at the pretty-but-not-that-unique-or-fantastical sea temple where they realize that they can both exit the water within it and breathe the air, despite still being extremely deep underwater.

They make their way into the temple and Manaphy starts singing. The temple seemingly sings back and May’s bracelet and Lizabeth’s necklace start to glow in response. The cascading waterfalls which were blocking a pathway then open, allowing them to pass.

Phantom arrives and follows closely after the group, taking the time to laugh maniacally. Team Rocket, having stowed away in an empty tank, emerge to follow him.

Jessie: “Treasure….”

James: “Diamonds and pearls….”

Meowth: “Let’s get through this season first.”

Ya know, I let the earlier utterance of ‘diamonds and pearls’ go because, despite being blatant plugging for the next generation, it still fit the lines of treasure and whatnot. So you decide to not just push the plug button again, but this time you’re so unabashedly blatant about it that you’re breaking the fourth wall to drill it into our heads that Pokemon Diamond and Pearl is what you’re really talking about.

Bite me.

Not only is this stupid and unnecessary, but how terrible of an idea is this from a writing perspective? “This movie/season/generation in general is such a chore to get through that we feel compelled to remind the audience that this will be ending soon and the totally much better Diamond and Pearl will be starting up in the near future.”

Back with Ash and the others, they make their way to some room with a big plaque in it but can’t decipher what it says. Suddenly, Phantom appears behind them, stating that he can read it just fine, and that it’s pointless to stop him because, even combined, they have no chance….Uh, why? I mean, this isn’t an advisable place to have a Pokemon battle, but, together, they have a hell of a lot of Pokemon and Phantom has like three.

He reads the plaque, which says that the door can only be opened by someone with the mark of the people of the water. Behind the door lies the sea crown, and anyone who wears the sea crown is the king of the sea.

He reveals his mark of the people of the water and all he says on how he obtained it was that he went to a lot of trouble to get it. Okie dokie.

He uses the mark to reveal the lock and somehow knows the combination to get in.

Back on the surface, the eclipse is ending so Jackie and the others lose sight of the temple.

Phantom and the others reach the sea crown, which is a big cluster of crystals about 15 feet high encased in suspended water….How do you wear that?

Manaphy happily jumps from May’s arms and into the water to swim around. However, when Phantom tries to pull some of the crystal out of the sea crown, he sends Manaphy, now trying to protect it, flying out of the water and onto the floor, causing it to start crying.

Gee, I sure hope that screwing around with this ancient mystical treasure doesn’t trigger some massive terrible event.

So the massive terrible event starts with the water that was encasing the sea crown suddenly bursting. Most water juts from the walls, nearly knocking everyone over the edge of the platform they’re on. From the outside, Jackie, having captured a Mantyke, observes the temple comimg back into view with odd beams of light shooting around it.

After Max nearly falls to his death, Lizabeth convinces Ash and the others to leave the temple, essentially leaving Phantom to destroy the crown and the temple, much to the dismay of Lizabeth.

Insatiable greed leading to the certain doom of our enemy? You spoil me with cliches, movie.

Ash and the others make it back to the submarine where they meet up with Jackie who proceeds to go take down Phantom while they escape. Jackie starts taking crystals from Phantom and putting them back into the sea crown, but Phantom manages to corner him as they fight over one of the crystals. More water bursts from the walls, causing Jackie and Phantom to lose their balance and fall into the water. Phantom goes down one underwater tunnel while Jackie has no choice but to be sucked into another. Phantom loses the crystal down a water chute and cannot follow after it.

As they’re about to leave, Manaphy decides to make one final effort to save the sea temple. It bursts from May’s arms, swims up the waterways and attempts to return the crystals back to the crown, though he can barely lift any of them. Ash and May jump in to help only to find that, once all of the crystals in the room were replaced, one is still missing.

Phantom and Team Rocket wrestle for the sub, but end up getting waterlogged, blasting Team Rocket off and showing that their role in this movie was more pointless than usual. Jackie, who has amazing balance to be standing on the edge of a dome like that, jumps onto Phantom’s sub and takes it, along with his Chatot.

Ash and May get lost trying to find a way out of the somewhat ironically sinking sea temple and end up conveniently stumbling across the final crystal. Ash grabs it before the place floods some more, and they also conveniently stumble upon the tank Team Rocket was in earlier. He puts Manaphy, May and Pikachu inside of it, claiming he has to return the crystal and save the sea temple.

Uh….Ash….I applaud you for your bravery and selflessness. Really, I do….even if this is just you forcing yourself to take the reigns as hero during a movie where another character is technically the main protagonist again. However, I have to ask….you’re really going to seemingly sacrifice your life…for….this? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful building that is important to a near extinct culture who doesn’t get explored much, and a bunch of Water Pokemon, I guess. Still, we don’t know why it’s such a literal life or death situation to save this place outside of it being something important to a handful of people.

Yeah, Manaphy can’t take his rightful place as king of the sea without the sea crown, for some reason, but we never know why that’s so necessary anyway. Really, the only consequence is one Jackie explained earlier.

Jackie: “Remember that Manaphy is the prince of the sea and destined to become leader of all the sea temple Pokemon.”

Got news for you, buddy. There are no sea temple Pokemon. In this whole huge temple, there are no Pokemon at all. The only Pokemon we see here outside of ones owned by the characters are ones outside of the temple, and there aren’t even that many of them. If those are the Pokemon he’s talking about, they seem to do fine without Manaphy.

Ash: “Alright, time to go die for the sake of ancient architecture that almost no one can find, see or visit.”

I also feel compelled to ask the obvious….What does it matter….if an UNDERWATER SEA TEMPLE sinks? The sea temple is encased in an air bubble, but are you seriously telling me that the people of the water made an underwater sea temple that couldn’t handle being flooded?

It might mess up some of the décor, but I don’t see why it’d be so damaging. People don’t even go there anymore, and the Water Pokemon who are supposedly so reliant on it would be able to access it with no problem even if it was entirely flooded because they’re Water Pokemon. In fact, Ash and the others could just give one of their Water Pokemon the crystal and tell them to put it back after they got back to the sub or boat, fixing the problem and keeping everyone safe.

There is no logical reason whatsoever that Ash feels the need to basically die for this.

Just to get on another stupid rant, that tank doesn’t look like it can be controlled, is motorized or even looks like it would float. May and Pikachu might be as good as dead in that thing anyway. To prove my point….it doesn’t. Yeah, the next few times we see them, the tank is just sitting underwater. I guess it could be that he put them there to keep them safe until he got back but;

1) He has no plan for getting them back to the boat even if he does survive and get back to the tank,

2) Does he think this thing won’t move?

For all he knew, he just put his friends in a tank that may have rolled off of the temple and sank to the bottom of the ocean where it would be crushed by the pressure.

Ash makes his way to the sea crown, and here’s something 4Kids would never keep – the shot of Lizabeth obviously praying. Though I have to wonder what deity the people of the water worship.

Ash wastes all of his air and energy trying to get the crystal freed after it gets stuck in a little nook. He falls unconscious and starts drowning while the crystal falls even deeper into the depths of the temple. May keeps hoping for Ash to be alright, and suddenly Manaphy demonstrates another power – makeshift telepathy. It places one tentacle on May’s head and another on the tank to somehow transmit May’s thoughts through the tank and the vast amounts of water between them to Ash, somehow waking him up and prompting him to swim to the surface and get a breath.

Manaphy a deus ex machina? Holy crap, you totally are a new temporary Togepi.

Ash gets a breath, the last one he’ll be able to get considering the space available above his head, and he rushes down to the crystal, back up to the sea crown and replaces it all in one go. Geez, Ash. Screw being a Pokemon Master. Go into professional swimming. You’ll clean up at the summer Olympics.

With the sea crown whole again, the temple glows and starts correcting itself – draining the water and floating back up. A bunch of golden tentacles grab the tank that May, Manaphy and Pikachu are in.

The temple, for some reason, surfaces even though it wasn’t on the surface before the crystals were removed. I will admit, in this one shot, despite the still incredibly questionable CGI, the temple looks pretty awesome.

The golden tentacle was nice enough to put the tank on a flat spot on the temple. May states that Ash must’ve saved the temple, but then they all start getting upset under the belief that Ash died in the process. Uh, if you know that Ash succeeded in replacing the crystal, why assume that he’s dead? I mean, sure, he could’ve drowned anyway, but the temple was draining water pretty quickly and surfaced even more quickly. If Ash has Olympic swimming chops, I’m pretty sure he’s fine.

Phantom pops back up (literally) and takes Manaphy away again, claiming that as long as he has Manaphy he can always find the temple again and get the crown…..which is stupid because he knows screwing with it causes it to sink. I suppose he could prep up in scuba gear and get it, I don’t know.

And here we are at what is supposedly the big scene of the movie. What the fans have coined as ‘Super Saiyan Ash.’

Let me back up. When the sea crown’s final crystal was replaced, it imbued Ash with the title of King of the Sea….because….doing that is equal to wearing it? As a result, he was cloaked in a golden aura, given the ability to breathe underwater, to swim incredibly fast and even, to a degree, fly. Which is another pseudo-theme in these movies.

Think about it – Ash is usually flying either through magic or riding on a Legendary Pokemon through many of the movies. Mewtwo’s Psychic abilities in 01, Lugia in 02, (Charizard might count a little in 03), Celebi’s Psychic abilities in 04, Latios in 05, half-counting Flygon in 06, Deoxys’ Psychic abilities in 07. The only movie I really can’t count is 08.

Ash and Phantom have an….’epic battle’ which is really just Ash chasing Phantom through the water as Phantom goes around in circles on his little metal jetski thinger that can also go underwater. Dude, just move away from the temple. You’re outrunning him pretty well. Just make your way to shore where he can’t touch you with these powers.

Phantom is suddenly faced with a ton of Water Pokemon when Kyogre pops up and pushes him back above water. Oh shi – did I mention Kyorge’s in this movie?! He’s appeared totally randomly in two shots and now he’s trying to be a part of the plot. Isn’t that cute?

Ash snatches Manaphy away from Phantom and he crashes into the water. It seems like they’re home free, but somehow Phantom managed to land directly on top of his big underwater tank sub thing. It’s now gunning for the sea temple, and the Water Pokemon are all trying to stop it. The tank uses its synthetic Supersonic, which confuses the Water Pokemon and shoos them away.

Manaphy breaks free of Ash and starts singing and glowing again….somehow calming all of the Water Pokemon down….I know I said I wanted Manaphy to have better powers, but it’s really just pulling stuff out of its ass at this point.

Manaphy sends the Water Pokemon off to charge the tank, slowing it down, nearly knocking Phantom off and cutting off their power supply.

Kyogre, under command of the riding Manaphy, uses Hyper Beam to blow apart the tank. Just when you think Phantom might finally be done, he reveals that he is strong enough to hold up a falling part of the tank with his mecha exo-skeleton they just decided to reveal under his clothes.

Okay, I guess that explains why he was strong enough to lift up a boulder with a person standing on it and throw it through the air….but….why have something as cool as a super strong mecha exo-skeleton and not only not visually put any focus on it but also not imply much with it? Yeah, he threw a big rock with a person on it, yeah he stopped falling steel from crushing him…..But that’s not doing nearly enough with that fairly unique-to-the-series dev—Oh nevermind, it broke and the steel ended up crushing him comically anyway. Whatever, movie.

Oh and upon the reveal of the mecha suit, that they can fully see and acknowledge by the way;

Jackie: “Wow, I didn’t think a guy like that took vitamins.”

…..I paused the video at this line because…it’s obviously meant to be a joke, they even pause afterward to give the audience time to laugh but….I don’t get it. He has a mecha exo-skeleton….vitamins….guy like that would….not take vitamins…but…he’s clearly using a mechanical device to lift these things….not…..why would….

If I had to make some weak correlation here, Phantom is a pirate and traditional pirates were known for getting scurvy due to lack of sources of vitamin C….But…he’s a modern day pirate. He obviously gets vitamin C….and even with that weak connection that I doubt they’re really making anyway, why the hell is that line proceeding a shot of Phantom lifting steel with the help of a mecha exo-skeleton!?

Wouldn’t this line have made just slightly more sense when Jackie was first facing Phantom? He….Oh wait….*rewind*

Jackie: *he and the boulder get thrown by Phantom* “Man, you’re strong Phantom. You take vitamins?”

……That was deemed funny enough for an end-of-movie throwback quip? One that doesn’t even make sense with the reveal of the exo-skeleton? Hell, even if he didn’t have that exo-skeleton, that line still wouldn’t make sense because why would he say he didn’t think Phantom was the type of guy who took vitamins if his first theory as to why Phantom was so strong before was that he took vitamins? You lazy unfunny non-sense-making bastards.

Later, everyone gets to go Super Saiyan and dick around in the water again because I suppose Ash can transfer the power to others or at least let them borrow it. Zooming out, we see that the many tentacles of the temple have webbed around the building to make a crown shape, what is truly the sea crown.

…..So you have to wear a building? I really am thinking about this way too much.

After the purty light show is over, the sea temple decides it’s time to go back underwater. That means that it’s also time to say goodbye to Manaphy. It jumps into May’s arms one last time and May tearfully makes her goodbye. Manaphy sends her off by saying ‘Love you’ again but this time adding ‘May.’ She tells her she loves him and then he says it again, this time adding ‘Mama,’ which kinda lessens the whole impact if you ask me. You already did the ‘May,’ you don’t need to add the ‘Mama.’

Manaphy hops out of May’s arms and back into the water, swimming towards the temple as May looks on with a bittersweet smile saying she’s not fine now, but she will be.

Our end credits song is replaying the song we got in the middle of the movie, just with lyrics now, “Together We Make a Promise” and I still like the song just fine. As for our end credits shots, of which most are painted, which is a nice change up, we get those completely pointless Ship fanboys greeting his return, Jackie and Officer Jenny hauling in the wrecked underwater tank thing along with a shot of Phantom and his first mate in chains, the group departing from Lizabeth and her family, then as we transition back to the animation we get….

Jackie capturing a random Zapdos and riding on it?

….Huh? Why did he capture a Zapdos? How did he capture a Zapdos so easily? How did he know a Zapdos was here? Do we just have easy access to legendaries now? I guess that would make sense considering Ash sees at least one a year. This is even more random than the Kyogre. At least that was a Water Pokemon who kinda belonged, even if it was unannounced and came from nowhere.

We then see Team Rocket cloaked in darkness with just their eyes visible (oh you silly cartoon tropes) when they suddenly get expelled with water upwards and we see that they were really inside a Wailord the whole time and it just shot them out of its blow hole….ewww.

Random Kyogre shot, then we see the sea temple littered with the Water Pokemon who were no where near it earlier, lead by the happy Manaphy. We get Ash and the others camping because that’s new, and an animation error that leaves the line for May’s closed smiling mouth on her face even though she’s now drinking, and then we see them walk off into the mountains.

The end.

———————————————-

First and foremost, this is not the worst Pokemon movie ever, but it’s up there because it’s just so incredibly sloppy.

Let’s address that title: Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea. Jackie’s not a huge part of this movie, nor is any other Ranger seen but him. He does talk to some unnamed woman at the Ranger station a few times, and there is a shot of a blue haired female Ranger during the ‘The World of Pokemon’ section, but that doesn’t really count.

We don’t learn much about Pokemon Rangers in this entire movie. We only learn that they protect wild Pokemon. We don’t learn about their practices, their training, why they use styluses to ‘capture’ Pokemon instead of using Pokeballs or anything. Don’t put something in the title of your movie if it doesn’t have that much bearing on anything in the movie. If you wanted, you could remove Jackie from this whole movie and it would only cause a few easily corrected problems.

Next, Manaphy, while it did grow on me, was still very annoying with its super high-pitched voice, wailing and repetitive talking. It was also incredibly inconsistent with its powers, going from a weird and seemingly useless ability to cause people and Pokemon to switch bodies to underwater makeshift telepathy and a widespread Pokemon calming ability, all of which seem to be emitted by the same light that comes from his head tentacles.

Manaphy didn’t seem to do much in the big finale. The Water Pokemon were already attacking the underwater tank thing – did they really need Manaphy almost comically yelling out ‘Manaaaa!’ with his arm pointing ahead for them to continue doing it once they weren’t caught in confusion anymore? Usually the featured legendary Pokemon gets the final big hurrah, but this time it just seemed like it was orchestrating it.

It’s really so necessary that Manaphy become king of the sea? Really? Because when the temple goes down, no one brings up that Manaphy can no longer do this. You’d think, as the temple was sinking, Jackie would yell something like ‘Oh no! If the temple sinks then Manaphy can’t become king and (more terrible thing) will happen!’ They don’t explain what his real role is anyway, just that he is meant to be a leader to a bunch of Pokemon who, by all means, have no reason for a leader.

Phantom was a joke as an enemy. I can say he’s the worst conceived Pokemon movie villain to date. Lawrence the Third may have been omitted from most of his movie, and the Iron-Masked Marauder may have had little backstory, but at least they seemed like threats and at least they seemed interesting.

They purposely made Phantom comical so the tension was almost entirely drained, leaving him almost as minor of a threat as Team Rocket. Despite giving him something cool that could’ve been pretty great in his super strong exo-skeleton, they waste it entirely. It’s almost like that was an afterthought to give him more of a threat when it was only used twice, both for completely pointless purposes.

They don’t even explain why he’s so dead-set on becoming king of the sea, or how he got that mark of the people of the water or how he knew the combinations to get into the locks throughout the temple or how he can read the language of the people of the water. I thought they’d reveal that he was a rogue descendant of theirs, but nope. If he is, they don’t mention a damn thing about it.

No backstory, no decent motivations and no threat = Terrible villain. That doesn’t have to really be a dealbreaker either, if the guy is funny enough, but he’s not. He’s not funny at all.

Lizabeth and her family were…fine. They’re supposed to represent the connections to the people of the water and how much the sea temple means to them, but their role was pretty weak. None of them made strong connections with the main characters. They tried to have May and Lizabeth bond a little when May started crying and when she gave her the mark of the people of the water, but it was really just one-note “Yeah, I know. That sucks” and “Here, have this bracelet.”

They also note on the Wiki that Lizabeth is one of the few girls that Brock lusts after that actually likes him back. Uh, where was that? I mean, yeah she talked about cooking with Brock once or twice, but that was about it. Lots of girls that Brock has lusted after have ‘liked’ him. Lizabeth never showed any inkling of liking him romantically.

Back to the family as a whole, they never talk about stuff from the culture of the people of the water, just that they were nomads who traveled the seas, lived alongside Water Pokemon and built a temple in their honor that works from some magic powers they somehow have but are never explained. They’re excited about seeing the sea temple, but don’t say or do much when they actually see it. Lizabeth does get a somber look on her face when she realizes they need to abandon the sea temple as it’s about to flood, but that’s it.

These people of the water just seem like madlibs entries no one built on. “And the (building) was built by the ancient (culture/race). And it’s totally important to them for (reasons).”

Brock and Max were more useless than usual this time around. They did 100% pure nothing. Just to drive that point home, I ctrl+f’d Brock’s name on this document, and the only times he’s notable enough to mention are when he explains who Lizabeth and her family are and me being confused as to why Ash and the others know what a Pokemon Ranger is already. Max nearly falls to his death and that sums up his role.

Team Rocket….I don’t even know why they’re in this movie, moreso than usual. It’s like they shoehorned them in under contractual obligation. They alert Phantom to Manaphy’s location, pointlessly swap bodies just to pointlessly display Manaphy’s pointless power, become the janitorial service for Phantom and spend about three scenes giggling about how they’ll get treasure only to be easily pushed out of the movie by the flood waters never to be seen again until the end credits.

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Now for the biggest issue – Ash completely hijacked this movie from May.

I was actually going to praise this movie for a while because, while being a complete rip-off of movie 06, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I liked movie 06 and how they handled Jirachi and Max’s relationship. Sure, May and Manaphy’s scenes were mostly just dicking around in the water and super gushy cutesy scenes, but they were fine. It’s understandable for May to get so attached to Manaphy and vice versa, much in the same vein as Misty and Togepi. Even though it seems like they unnecessarily crammed days worth of bonding in when, in movie 06, the days of bonding and travel had a purpose in that they were waiting for the comet…

…..Wait, in this movie they’re waiting for an eclipse. Do you have no shame, movie 09?

It seems all fine until we get to that climax when Ash wrestles the limelight away from her and suddenly decides to risk/sacrifice his life for the sake of the temple. Sure, Ash is self-sacrificing, but he has no emotional connection to this place nor is it really that big of a deal if he lets it sink.

If this wasn’t a life sacrificing/largely risky task, it would be more understandable, but from the way it’s presented, it seems like Ash is really going off to die in order to just possibly save the temple – and, he does nearly end up dying. The only reason he didn’t was because of Manaphy’s grab bag of powers.

Why did the focus suddenly shift to Ash to the point where we got a superhero-esque confrontation out of it? Why did it shift to him at all?

In movie 06, Ash stayed away from the limelight because it was Max’s movie. He did do one heroic thing because main character, but he never stole the show from Max. The climax was more of a team effort with Ash, Max and Butler if anything. Contrast that to movie 04, where one of the main negatives there was Ash stealing the show from Sam and, to a lesser extent, his relationship to Celebi. We’re moving backwards in character and storytelling progression as we move forward in movies.

There’s no reason whatsoever why May couldn’t have been the one to go down there and fix the sea crown. Absolutely none. Given everything that has been built up until this point, it’s almost like they intended to have that happen in the first few drafts then changed it to Ash at the last second because main character.

Think about it. May has that dream about Manaphy, which Lizabeth says indicates that she may somehow be a descendant of the people of the water. It’s unfounded and unexplored, but there you go. Lizabeth also gives May one of her marks of the people of the water.

These facts seem to nudge that May would be the one to save the sea crown and become king queen of the sea.

Not to mention that she has way more motivation than Ash does. Let me rewrite this entire ending for you.

May, realizing that her beloved Manaphy will never become king of the sea without the sea crown intact and the temple back to its former glory, decides she must sacrifice herself to restore the crown. When they find the tank, she shoves Manaphy into Ash’s arms and explains what she must do. He tries to talk her out of it, but she stands firm in her resolve. Ash begrudgingly accepts this and wishes her luck before they enter the tank and lock the door.

May makes her way through the temple, reaches the crown and drops the crystal. As she attempts to retrieve it, she runs out of air and loses consciousness. Manaphy, sensing May is in danger, transfers its own thoughts to May, saying ‘Love you’ a couple of times before saying ‘Love you, May!’, which triggers her mark of the people of the water and wakes her up. She gets one more breath, grabs the crystal and puts it back in the crown. The sea crown, recognizing May’s mark of the people of the water and maybe her possible people of the water bloodline, gives her the powers of the queen of the sea.

After the crown is restored and the temple surfaces, Phantom steals Manaphy yet again. Sensing Manaphy’s in danger, due to her queen of the sea-ness, May bursts from the water with her new Super Saiyan powers and takes on Phantom, retrieving her beloved Manaphy and earning a touching reunion.

Later, after the climax, she and Manaphy say their goodbyes and she transfers her queen of the sea powers to Manaphy before he jumps back into the ocean and leaves.

That was a tiny bit fanfic-y, but it makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it? The whole flow of the movie gets derailed because Ash couldn’t help himself but be hero when it clearly wasn’t his movie. Meanwhile, our supposed heroine gets to sit still in a tin can literally just hoping the hero can save the day. I’m glad they didn’t have her tears or something transfer to Ash too because my eyeballs practically escaped my skull from how hard I was rolling them during the finale of the temple scene.

I’m trying really hard to not put a sexist slant on this, but it’s very difficult. All May does the entire movie is react to stuff, cry and be a mama to a baby. She’s not even the one who saves Max from nearly falling pointlessly to his death – Lizabeth was. In fact, Lizabeth does way more in this movie than May does, and even she does less than Ash.

Admittedly, May does help put the crystals back in the sea crown, but that was only because she was stupidly running after Manaphy. Yeah, sure wouldn’t want Manaphy to get trapped in this sinking building….the one falling underwater…..where he’s strongest….can swim against all currents….and can easily breathe. Oh no.

Plus, as you already know, she didn’t even do that alone – Ash helped there too.

Not that this movie’s story is all that much to get excited over anyway. It could’ve been worse, but we’ve seen this same exact story several times in this movie series already. It’s like a mish-mash of several Pokemon movies with a new coat of paint, and the paint is smelly and pea colored. If you’re going to rip-off other movies, especially in your own damn universe, you have to bring new things to the table that make it unique and interesting to allow it to stand on its own.

But no. We get an annoying mix of Togepi with a cutesy legendary, a bunch of dicking around in the water, a villain who is completely forgettable and non-threatening, side characters who are completely forgettable, a Pokemon Ranger whose character is mostly wasted, random appearances from other legendaries to, I guess, make it more interesting, and the only things standing out being hilariously awful CGI and Super Saiyan Ash. Even the names in this movie were forgettable placeholders; Phantom, the people of the water, the sea temple, the sea crown, the prince of the sea and the king of the sea.

It’s not a huge chore to sit through, I wouldn’t even say it’s unpleasant, but if you asked me if I’d be interested in watching this movie again I’d probably say no. There’s no reason for me to ever watch this again…..even though I have to when I do the subbed version review.

I will say that the soundtrack for this movie is fantastic and that the climax was fun and impacting, but otherwise this movie is bland, boring, sloppy and disappointing. Seriously, guys, this is what you follow up Lucario and the Mystery of Mew with? I guess you were serious when you said this is something to ‘get through’ until we get to Diamond and Pearl.

Recommended Audience: Nothing happens. E for everyone.


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AVAHS – Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street Review

Things that never happen in this movie – the kids sledding, snowboarding, making snowmen – and that little screenshot they use is the most blatant lie because that absolutely never happens. At least with everything else you can just say it’s typical box art, but that image is specifically being framed as a screenshot from the movie and it’s completely fabricated.

Rating: (Not taking the quality of the episodes themselves into consideration) 2/10

Not taking the holiday framing device into consideration: 7/10

Plot: As Miss Grotke, Miss Finster and Principal Prickly get stuck in their car during a snow storm after the school Christmas pageant, Finster and Prickly grumble about what irredeemable pests the kids are. Miss Grotke, however, brings them on a trip down memory lane to remind them of how great they are instead.

Breakdown: Dear Santa,

This year for Christmas I want Disney to stop lying to me when I pick up a direct-to-DVD “movie” of theirs.

Yours truly,

~Twix

What is it with Disney and repackaging episodes of their TV series as movies just because they add about 10 minutes of new animation to act as bookends? I get it with the Disquels that are made up of failed pilots for spin-off TV shows – gotta make money off the animation somehow. When they made Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, I understood too because, again, that was a canceled spin-off and/or new season – gotta make money off the animation somehow. I don’t like it, but it’s understandable.

Then you have the Disquels that repackaged the final set of episodes of a TV series that did air, which is super lazy and just getting money for old rope. It’s deceitful, especially when you’re dealing with little kids buying these movies.

And then you have Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street, which is a special kind of deceitful money-grubbing. Not only are they repackaging old episodes of the TV show, but they’re completely randomly selected episodes that have 100% nothing to do with each other. They certainly have nothing to do with Christmas.

Take note of that DVD cover as it states absolutely nothing of containing any episodes of the series and blatantly calls it a full length holiday movie. (Even if you qualify this as a movie, it just manages to skim the hour mark without credits.)

Give Taking the Fifth Grade some credit – it didn’t market itself as a Halloween movie. It was just part of the motif for the runtime with the Halloween special being the ending. The framing device was moving on to the fifth grade, which actually was a running theme in all of the episodes of that movie.

In this “movie,” like before, the only episode that is Christmas-y is the final entry, which was the main Christmas special of the series, but the bookends are also Christmas-oriented, and Christmas is right there in the title (Shouldn’t it be ‘A Recess Christmas’? Recess Christmas sounds weird.) meaning the movie itself is meant to be focused on Christmas.

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Speaking of the bookends, the story there is extremely predictable. After the school’s Christmas pageant, and keep that in mind, I’ll get back to that later, Miss Finster, Miss Grotke and Principal Prickly try to drive to their homes for the holiday vacation when they get hit by some clod of snow, which causes them to get stuck in a snowbanking. Prickly and Finster instantly assume the kids threw a snowball at them, which means they not only assume that the kids are pricks, but they also believe they have teleportation to instantly catch up to them after several minutes of driving when the kids were on foot and that they’d give zero shits after watching them crash.

They were clearly shown to be in the suburbs just milliseconds before they crashed, and Miss Grotke even said they only went a few blocks from the school, yet despite being in a clear suburban area in a city, Prickly can’t walk far enough to get help, so they pretty much just resign themselves to dying, I guess.

I should note that this series seems to take place in some western/southwestern state or something because they never get snow and it was in the 70s merely that afternoon (This is established in the bookends and in the final episode they show) So, yeah, this is super believable. It just started snowing during the pageant, definitely wasn’t blizzard conditions, yet by the time they drive home there are already snowbanks to crash into? Snow deep enough to get stuck in? How was the ground even cool enough for the snow to stick in the slightest? Just because it snows doesn’t mean it accumulates, especially if it was 70 degrees that afternoon.

It’s at least believable that they crashed because people from areas that never get snow have little experience driving in it, nor do they have snow tires, but the rest is just ridiculous.

And you’ll never guess what the ending twist is.

TJ and the gang show up out of nowhere to suddenly save them from being stuck, proving that they’re good kids afterall.

Merry Christmas.

The end.

In the meantime, you have Finster and Prickly badmouthing TJ and the others and blaming them for basically everything wrong in life, even supposedly after the Christmas pageant, which, again, I’ll address in a second.

Miss Grotke (And Finster and Prickly for two segments) has to spend the entire “movie” relaying stories about the kids actually being good to convince them of their good nature – even expressing knowledge of events and dialogue exchanges that Grotke, Finster and Prickly could never have knowledge of in the slightest because this series almost always takes place from the kids’ perspectives.

First, Grotke claims TJ was good recently when Prickly selected him as temporary principal, conveyed through playing the episode Principal for a Day. However, he was never really good in that entire episode. He started out being way too lax, making all-day recess and basically letting everyone run free. Then he became way too strict as Prickly tried to mold him in his image. Then he ended the episode being way too lax again to the point of ridiculousness by getting a police escort for a couple of ice cream trucks to give free ice cream to every kid in school.

Prickly actually conveys this story because he’s admitting to Grotke that this was actually all a scheme to turn TJ into a teacher’s pet like Randall or Menlo, the latter of which they did this same conditioning to the year prior.

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Next, Grotke argues that the kids don’t ruin everything and, in fact, make things better, by telling the story of the events of last Thanksgiving when they had The Great Can Drive. However, again, this is a really shitty example.

There’s a can drive going on at school for Thanksgiving, and whichever class collects the most cans gets a turkey dinner. I remember these can drives at school, but I never remembered there being competitions involved with them. TJ and the rest of Grotke’s class opt to not participate because they believe they have no chance of winning. The Ashleys always have their parents buy cans for them so they win every year. I don’t know why the Ashleys are so preoccupied with winning a cheap turkey dinner when their families seem kinda rich, but whatever.

This is also probably why I never remember can drive competitions being a thing. If you can just have mommy and daddy buy a bunch of cans, everyone would probably just cheat if the prize were worth a damn.

I also remember these drives basically being mandatory. You needed to bring at least a can or two in or else your teacher would endlessly hound you about it.

Mikey, being ever the gentle giant, realizes the true meaning behind this drive is for the betterment of the lives of those less fortunate, not to win some competition, so he takes over being the sole collector for the class.

Despite making his intentions VERY clear, several times in fact, his friends still pity him and act like he’s depressed over being so far behind in the competition. When the Ashleys come over to talk smack, his friends step up and join the competition, clearly taking it as purely a competition and not giving a crap about the less fortunate. It reaches really insane levels of competitiveness, especially over something as dumb as a turkey dinner. Provided by the school, I can bet it’s cheap as dirt and probably tastes as good.

I get that it’s really just to one-up the Ashleys, but the Ashleys motivations are just as confusing.

Each class collects 4,362 cans, which means they, collectively, have 8,724 cans stacked in the auditorium. It’s a really nice mountain of cans that would be incredible to give to the local charities.

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However, since it’s a tie, all of the students are upset. An elderly woman helping to present the turkey dinner to the winner, being part of the first graduating class of the school back in 1928, happens to have one can that she was going to give to the winner (???What???Why???) This results in every single person in the auditorium losing their goddamn mind and charging this poor woman. TJ and one of the Ashleys start physically fighting over the can so they can win.

Let me remind you, at this point, that Grotke is explaining this story as an example of how the kids don’t ruin everything.

Okay?

Okay.

…..The can flies out of their hands and knocks the can mountain over, causing a massive would-probably-cause-several-fatalies avalanche of canned goods.

Every single can of food is obliterated.

Nearly 9000 cans of food for charity, gone. Splattered all over the walls, floor and ceiling of the auditorium. All because of one of the most petty competitions I’ve ever seen.

Mikey does give them all a good chewing out over it, thank God, but the damage is done.

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Nitpicky, but, realistically, this shouldn’t have happened. It was a can pyramid, not a can tower. Not all of the cans should have fallen like this.

Until, that is, the holiday miracle monkey pooped out a deus ex machina. In the time frame of one day, not even, probably, the other kids all banded together, networked, and gathered twice as many cans as they had before from other neighborhoods, groups and clubs. Not only that, but a local store owner heard what happened at the school and said “It’s about time (his) company put its money where its mouth is.” before donating a truck full of food to every homeless shelter in the city. That’s great and all, but why was hearing the story of a bunch of idiot kids wasting 9000 cans of donated food for stupid reasons the trigger that made him finally donate food to charity? Just because he felt bad about all of the wasted donations?

And the episode ends with Prickly announcing a toy drive competition for Christmas, so, womp womp, here we go again.

I explained that episode more in detail because 1) It’s a bonus Thanksgiving special review, hoorah, and 2) It was a really odd moment where I somehow felt heartwarmed while also feeling like someone beat every single character, barring Mikey, with an idiot stick. No, no—an idiot tree. Why Grotke felt the need to convey this whole story is beyond me. The conversation should have gone;

Grotke: “They do not ruin everything. They actually make things better! Remember when the kids collected all of those cans for the less fortunate this Thanksgiving?”

Finster: “What are you smoking, Grotke? They only did all of that after wasting probably $10,000 in canned goods, doing tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the auditorium – we’re still picking peas and kidney beans out of the rafters to this day – and nearly murdering everyone in the student body and an elderly woman with falling canned goods.”

Sure they made up for it later, but only because of insanely impossible circumstances that they pulled out of their asses. And it’s implied that they didn’t really learn anything from it if the toy drive thing was any indication.

The next example is Grotke arguing that Finster likes Spinelli specifically, which Finster responds to with the story of Spinelli staying over at her house at Weekend at Muriel’s. This is one of my favorite episodes of the series that first started shining a very sympathetic and human light on Miss Finster while also teaching Spinelli that teachers can be pretty cool people outside of school, even if they’re shrill and strict in school.

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Even if Miss Finster takes it a bit too far sometimes, it’s still her job to keep the kids in line. She has her own style of teaching that works for her and her students. She’s grumpy, strict, and sometimes even mean and conniving, but she still loves her students and wants what’s best for them. This is one story that actually works to prove Grotke’s point, even if Finster tells her to keep it a secret.

The final story is the actual Christmas special, Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave. Grotke relays this story as proof that this is one of the best Christmases ever…..since it happened the same night as the movie. The pageant in the episode takes place immediately preceding the events of the bookends for this movie, which makes no sense because this movie was released merely a day after the finale of the series aired and has an entirely different animation style and quality to it than the flashback.

That also means Grotke feels the need to tell, from start to finish, a story that just concluded minutes before the movie started. What’s next? She’s going to tell them the story of how they left the school that night and crashed into an improbable snowbanking, getting stuck, so she started telling long stories about their students to prove their good nature?

While we’re finally at the Christmas special for the “movie” I can’t say I have much to say about it. The episode as a whole is very much by-the-books.

TJ and the others wallow in their 70 degree weather as they watch the kindergartners get excited over Christmas, which they can’t seem to do much of anymore since they no longer believe in Santa….which is dumb because most kids their age would still be excited about Christmas because they still get presents and candy and whatnot. I adore Christmas and I never believed in Santa.

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I feel I should clarify something – all of the kindergartners dress like natives and have face paint, so the black kid in this shot isn’t really being a background racist depiction, he’s just dressed like the other kindergartners.

This is especially silly because these kids will still believe in the magic of Halloween when they get to fifth grade, but Santa’s too kiddy for them?

Mikey, being a pure Christmas cupcake, still does believe in Santa, however. His friends are respectful of this, but when it starts to get back to him that kids his age tend to grow out of the Santa myth, he goes to ridiculous lengths to prove his existence, which only backfires and proves to Mikey that he doesn’t exist.

A run-in with a James Earl Jones cameo, who turns out to be Santa, obviously, renews his faith in Santa – not because he found the real Santa, he didn’t know that until the end of the episode, but because he taught him that the magic of Santa and Christmas is about faith and giving. (If you’re wondering about the title of the episode, this version of Santa has a shaved face and seemingly dislikes that he’s portrayed with a beard all the time. I don’t know why he’s more upset about the beard instead of the fact that he’s almost always depicted as a white guy when, in Recess canon, Santa is black, but okay. I think we all need James Earl Jones to just be Santa in real life. It would make the world a better place.)

Meanwhile, some big-shot TV producer has chosen Third Street Elementary School to host his super diverse while also being offensive holiday pageant…which will have approximately…….5 BILLION viewers….That’s billion. With a B.

For comparison, last year’s Super Bowl had 100 million viewers and the New Year’s Eve Time Square ball drop usually rakes in one billion viewers, in crowds in public or at home, worldwide….meaning this elementary school Christmas pageant is 50 times more popular than the Super Bowl and five times as popular as the ball drop. (Also, for some reason, Dick Clark is cameoing too in order to introduce the pageant.)

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It’s already such an insane figure, but it’s even worse when you remember that people who work in TV and know these things wrote that into the script with a straight face.

Mikey has been cast as Santa because of his Robert Goulet singing voice (I’m not being facetious – that really is Robert Goulet providing Mikey’s singing voice. He’s provided his singing voice over the entire series.) but he no longer wants to do it when he discovers Santa’s fake. After talking with Santa Earl Jones, he realizes that he can keep the faith of Santa and the true spirit of Christmas inside of his heart. He can provide the magic of Santa to the littler kids by returning to the pageant and taking on the role of Santa Claus.

After the pageant, James Earl Claus praises Mikey on a job well done in the pageant. Mikey wonders how he knew he’d be there, and he says he invited him, which he didn’t, but then Mikey catches a piece of paper flying in the wind and discovers it was the letter he wrote to Santa. He had ripped it to shreds and thrown it to the wind, but it magically pieced itself back together again somehow. Then they see Santa flying off into the sky on his sleigh.

This is to be expected, of course, but it kinda ruins the message of having in faith in something you can’t see if you give Mikey proof of Santa’s existence (the paper) and then flatout show him and the other kids Santa flying in his sleigh.

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I should really talk about this play because it’s kind of a mess. The producer wants it to be as diverse as humanly possible to get all of the politically correct people off his ass (not inferring that – he says it outright several times) but he also makes Vince “Good King Kwanzaa” instead of the spirit of Kwanzaa, which is really weird. I feel like giving Kwanzaa a king defeats the purposes of its messages.

When all is said and done, this play celebrating diversity in the holidays presents Christmas like it’s the best one. They LITERALLY all step aside to welcome Santa (Their “favorite guy”) and Christmas. And while all of the other holidays get a short blurb during their parts, Santa gets several lines and a musical number all to himself.

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Overall, I did fairly enjoy this Christmas special. I won’t lie, my heart really hurt when Mikey finally comes to the realization that Santa doesn’t exist. All of his sad at best and heartbreaking at worst attempts to prove to his friends and sort of himself that Santa was real coming to a crescendo of him admitting defeat in tears in the radio station cut really deep. His face coupled with the voice acting of Jason Davis really struck a chord.

Outside of that, it’s a predictable episode to be certain, but it’s mostly harmless and it did eek out some Christmas magic. I really appreciated how Mikey’s friends were all trying very hard to not ruin Mikey’s faith in Santa. They didn’t lie to him, really, but they tried hard to keep their views to themselves so they wouldn’t ruin Mikey’s belief. When his faith broke, they all felt really bad about it, even if it was through no fault of their own. They were miserable because he was, and it showed how strong their bond of friendship is.

Back to the “movie” you’re left wondering how Pricky still felt the kids were all irredeemable monsters when Mikey literally made the 5 billion viewer show he was so obsessed about a hit merely an hour ago. The kids show up from the convenience void and free the teachers with barely a line of dialogue exchanged. The kids whip out a piano and other instruments from nowhere to sing a Recess-fied version of Jingle Bells, which they somehow felt was noteworthy enough to mention on the DVD cover too.

The end.

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Bottomline: This movie left me feeling as hollow as a lie….because it is one. Never has one of these episodes-stapled-together “movies” left me feeling so insulted.

It was a lazy cash-grab attempt to throw some completely random episodes together, put a ‘Christmas’ label on it to help it sell and call it a day. It’s made even worse than normal because this is a Christmas special. It’s supposed to fill me with Christmas spirit. All you do when you present a deceitful repurposed collection of episodes as a brand new Christmas special is suck all of the Christmas spirit out of me.

What’s even sadder is thinking about all of the kids who probably asked for this movie for Christmas.

They didn’t even use newer episodes. All of these episodes came from seasons one and two when the series had literally just ended with its sixth season a day prior to release. Not only is this a continuity nightmare in that regard, but the back and forth of animation quality is very stark. Recess never really had fantastic animation, but the early days were pretty bad and done in a completely different manner. The later days had crisper artwork and brighter colors, more fluid animation and a more Flash-y kinda feel to it (not really in a bad way.)

In regards to the episodes used, I somewhat liked Principal for a Day, I seriously disliked The Great Can Drive, I loved Weekend at Muriel’s and I was on pretty good terms with Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave. However, I don’t feel like I can wholeheartedly say the movie is better just because the episodes it uses are mostly good. That’s just cheating.

If you’re taking this as a Christmas movie instead of a collection of random episodes, you’re going to be massively disappointed. The narrative structure doesn’t lend itself to anything worth an elf’s spit in a bucket and the bookends are only barely there. It’s mostly just setup to lead into the episodes instead of being a story on its own, and what story is there doesn’t make any sense and is predictable as hell.

While they get weird bonus points for bothering to include the Thanksgiving special too, only the final episode focuses on Christmas, so it’s not a movie to put on during the holidays.

If you’re going into this just wanting a grab bag of old Recess episodes without caring about the framing device, then it’s perfectly fine. The episodes they chose are pretty good for the most part. However, you can just as easily watch the entire series on Disney+ or Amazon Prime Video.

All in all, there’s absolutely no reason to watch this. Just watch the Christmas special as a standalone, and don’t give Disney any more satisfaction in this shady business practice.


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AVAHS – Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer Review

Rating: 1/10

Plot: Following the story of the popular novelty Christmas song (not really), this movie follows a boy named Jake Spankenheimer as he tries to figure out what happened to his grandma one fateful Christmas morning.

Breakdown: *deep breath*

*sigh*

I knew this day would come.

Gather ‘round, children. Let me tell you the story of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, both the movie and the song.

The year was 1978 – veterinarian Dr. Elmo Shroshire, known as Dr. Elmo, and his wife Patsy, who are a folk singing duo as a hobby, get an offer to sing a new unique Christmas song by writer Randy Brooks.

That song was Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

After it was picked up by a radio station in 1979, it enjoyed modest success in other local radio stations for a while, and year after year it would spread to more stations in more states. In 1982, after finding quick success in mass producing a quarter of a million copies of the song, Dr. Elmo sold his veterinary hospital to pay for a music video (Which is kinda terrible when you think about it. Yeah, why save the lives of innocent animals when you can make a music video about a silly redneck Christmas song?)

A year later it was picked up by MTV and history was made.

Annoying history.

Even though popularity for this song had a steady pace upward since the early 80s, I feel like it didn’t hit its peak until the mid 90s. I remember my dad listening to this song for the first time with me, and we both found it to be fairly funny and enjoyable. My family was fairly redneckish for northeastern yankees, particularly my camo-lovin’ hunter dad (he refers to himself as a redneck so I promise this isn’t a jab to him.) so we enjoyed the song for quite some time.

But then it was like the radio stations were playing it after every other song when the holidays rolled around. Christmas songs are well-known for oversaturation, which is one of the reasons why retail store employees quickly grow to loathe them, but something was different about Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

First of all, it’s an earworm. If you hear it once during your day, congratulations, because your brain radio will now play the chorus on loop no matter your cries for mercy for a random, but always long, period of time.

Second of all, it’s an earworm, which means you’ll either be humming or singing it a lot, and you can’t not look like an idiot singing this song.

The song was so popular that in 2000 it spawned an animated version. I wish I was kidding. But hey, you know you’ve really made it as a beloved Christmas song when you have an animated special made about it. Even Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You was made into an animated special. Again, I wish I was kidding. (I tried to get through it last year for AVAHS, but it’s dreadfully boring…)

Before I get into that, though, let’s talk about the story of the song. It’s pretty self-explanatory even with just the title. Grandma is the victim of a hit-and-run with Santa at the helm. Grandma’s corpse is found outside of her grandson’s house the next morning, and despite Santa being guilty of negligent homicide and fleeing from the scene of an accident, he’s neither pursued by authorities or given punishment for his actions because no one believes in Santa. And apparently Santa’s such an amoral bastard that he never turns himself in or cares that he murdered an elderly woman.

The rest of the song is the family mourning her death and, according to Dr. Elmo himself, implications that Grandpa is rather happy that his wife is dead. Also, a warning to everyone to beware on Christmas because Santa’s a crazy driver who already got away with murder once.

Now, you may be thinking that I don’t need to go over the movie since I just explained the song full out.

Nope. Because that is one of the core of the problems for the movie.

If you thought the story of the song sounded way too short for a special, you’re not alone. In fact, most Christmas songs don’t have stories long enough to fill a movie, which is why most of them pad the run time with new plots and characters. This song is rather unique however in that it not only needed be ridiculously stretched out (Grandma doesn’t even get run over until 15 minutes into this 50 minute long movie) but they needed to basically make an entirely new story from scratch to make an actual movie.

What’s even worse is that they must have thought the actual song was too dark in tone and subject matter to make a kid’s movie about it because two major things are changed – Grandma doesn’t die and Santa was not responsible for the accident.

I’m of the mind that if you think a song is too raunchy/dark/mature etc. to make a kid’s show about it, maybe don’t make a kid’s show about it. It’s like Kids Bop and their complete scrubbing of any song they cover so they can have songs that were originally not appropriate for kids at all to be kid-friendly. Because, gosh, it’s not like kids who enjoy the song would ever seek out the original version, which is probably readily available on Youtube, Spotify, Pandora or one of many other music services.

Even so, you’d probably think that’s par for the course for a kid’s special. It’s no big deal. Well, it kinda is when they play the song over the movie and clearly show that what’s happening on screen is not happening in the song.

It’s almost like they expect you to not pay attention to the lyrics as the song is playing, but it’s a comedy song. If there’s one type of song where you’re really supposed to pay attention to the lyrics, it’s a comedy song. Otherwise it’s not a comedy song, it’s just a song.

They had an out to not follow the song’s story and they purposely put the song over the scenes to point out how they don’t match. Why!?

You may be wondering why I just spent two pages talking about all of this….Well, quite frankly….I’m stalling because I really don’t want to watch this movie again.

Alright, let’s get into it.

————————————

The movie starts with the title card and the song you expect to be playing when ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ is front and center on the screen…..Jingle Bells!….Okie dokie. I should mention that this special is also littered with other songs written and performed by Dr. Elmo, so why they randomly threw Jingle Bells at the start makes even less sense. I guess the melody of the main song sounds quite a bit like Jingle Bells, so maybe that’s it, but still it’s weird.

Speaking of Dr. Elmo, he not only provided several songs for the movie (whether made for the movie specifically or otherwise) but he’s also the narrator, the voice of Grandpa and he co-wrote it. Give the guy some credit, no matter if you love or hate this song, the guy seems to find genuine enjoyment in his work and is pretty proud of it.

Once the animation actually starts, we see Grandma getting run over by Santa’s reindeer (This is a flash forward, so my comment earlier still sticks.) and somehow she didn’t spill a drop of her drink.

Our narrator decides to flash back a bit to explain how we got here. In the bustling city of Cityville, because the Powerpuff Girls didn’t want this to take place in the city of Townsville, it’s the holiday season, and Grandma’s store is busier than ever. She also has a sign that says ‘Store time’ for some reason.

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Grandma is nuts about Christmas. Her store is filled with Christmas goodies, and she loves reading to the kiddies while their parents are off shopping. Enter child version of the narrator, Jake….Jake Spankenheimer. I’m convinced they had a competition to see who could come up with the stupidest last name imaginable….

Jake is warning Grandma that cousin Mel is chasing away another customer. Just because it’s way too subtle and my sarcasm doesn’t carry over into text, let me just get this out of the way – MEL IS A BAD PERSON.

However, this instance is kinda strange because….she’s not wrong. A woman is trying to walk out of the store with a gingerbread house without paying for it and Mel is trying to stop her from shoplifting. Grandma comes and pardons her, claiming her credit is always good there and she can pay her next time she gets a paycheck.

From what I can tell, this woman just waltzed into the store, grabbed a gingerbread house and left without telling anyone. Even if the owner knows you and is willing to pardon the purchase, that’s still wrong. You go and ask someone beforehand, because otherwise how will they even know you took it? It’s like having a tab open in a bar and, when no one’s looking, going behind the bar to make yourself a drink and leaving with the drink.

Mel, however, is less angry about moral integrity and more angry about Grandma’s business practices. She views her as too lax and is concerned that they’ll never get rich unless she shapes up. Grandma, however, doesn’t care about being rich. She just wants to live a happy life being nice to people.

Later, in Jake’s room.

Daphne: “Adding to your Christmas wish list?”

Jake: *sigh* “Sisters…”

…….What? What does being a sister have to do with wondering if you’re adding stuff to your Christmas list?

Jake still believes in Santa, but his sister mocks him for it and his parents seem to be at that point where they believe they should slowly reveal the truth to him.

His dad comes home with an inflatable Christmas tree, which disappoints Jake since he wanted to cut down a tree like they always do.

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Daphne: “Nobody gets a tree anymore. It’s not cool.” Pbbtttt…..Ahem. I know of more than a dozen Christmas tree farms within an hour of me that are consistently sold out of trees, are riddled with tagged pre-bought trees or are waiting for more tree growth since they got wiped out the year prior. And places where you can buy pre-cut trees, like the local hardware stores, Walmart and clubs, always sell out too. I don’t recall any year in which tree farms were starving for sales or artificial trees were flying off the shelves for any reason.

For the record, no matter if you prefer artificial, pre-cut or fresh, an inflatable tree is just stupid.

Austin Bucks, who is one of those ‘owns everything in the city’ types – his company is even named ‘Own All Corp.’ – comes to Grandma asking to buy her store so he make it the hub of his new robot Christmas gift delivery sleigh.

Also, cursed screenshot.

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Grandma and Jake turn down his offer, which makes greedy Mel angry. I don’t really understand why. She’s clearly not the heir to the business (Grandma states she’ll never own it) and she doesn’t own any stake in it now, she’s just an employee. If Grandma sells the business, that really won’t benefit her at all. In fact, the dude will probably just fire everyone and hire new people for his sleigh thing.

How fitting that this next (pointless) song break happens to cover a topic I was talking about in my last AVAHS entry. Like I mentioned there, it’s weird that the special showed how much people seem to like fruitcake now when, back when I was a kid, it was a running thing for fruitcake to be a joke. Hard as a brick, tastes terrible and is used as a lazy holiday gift (Again, I’ve never had fruitcake so I’m not anti-fruitcake.) And now we have a song and segment of the movie where people are running in fear of Grandma’s “killer” fruitcake. It even has a warning on the label because of how bad it is.

If Grandma is such an amazing baker, to the point where her store basically rests on the income of her baked goods, why am I to believe she wouldn’t make good fruitcake?

Anyway, Mel poisons Grandma’s fruitcake (to make people sick, not kill them) so no one will ever shop at her store again and she’ll be forced to sell the store to Austin Bucks. Jake witnesses this, but doesn’t say anything. Also, I guess she’s banking on one tainted fruitcake being the thing that topples the business because that vial is really tiny and she only poisons one cake.

Meanwhile, Jake helps Grandma decorate the house for Christmas, she tucks him in and they talk about Jake’s Santa-existential crisis. Grandma believes in Santa, though, and tells him there’s nothing to worry about. Jake’s relationship to his Grandma is, admittedly, pretty sweet – so sweet I’m actually pretty glad this version doesn’t have her get downed in a vehicular homicide.

As she walks away and we zoom out on Jake’s sleeping head, before we even cut away….

♬ “GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER!” ♫

Geez, song, at least wait for the cutaway before you start blasting that.

They don’t even start it when she’s actually walking home from Jake’s house Christmas eve – they play the first few lines while Grandma’s getting ready to leave, pause it while she discusses leaving with the family and then, right as she’s leaving. She says she has to take cookies and cakes to some charity volunteers, even though we can plainly see that she’s only holding one fruitcake and no cookies. *shrug*

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♪ “She’d been drinking too much eggnog.”♩

Dad: “You’ve been drinking too much eggnog!” (With nary a lip flap)

So, obviously, this line in the song implies that Grandma’s been hitting the sauce and is too wasted to go out safely. In the movie, they establish that she has an egg allergy and she’s been sucking on eggnog all night. She must not have too severe of an allergy to it if she can stand drinking a ton of eggnog and not be affected for hours on end.

♬ “And we begged her not to go.” ♫

Grandpa: *On his hands and frickin’ knees* “Please don’t go!”

Mom: “We’re begging!”

If everyone’s so worried about Grandma not being able to walk outside safely, why is no one getting off their asses to walk with her? Or go in her place? And I mean this in response to the song and movie. What lazy twats.

♪ “But she forgot her medication…”♩

Grandma: *shakes empty medication bottle* “Besides, I forgot my medication at the store.”

It’s never really mentioned what Grandma’s medication is for in the song, but it can be surmised that it’s for some condition that impairs her judgment, mental condition or motor skills. In the movie, it’s allergy medication that she apparently doesn’t need because she’s still perfectly fine.

♬ “And she staggered out the door into the snow.”♫

“Staggered” is more implication that she was plastered, but in the movie, again, it’s like they expect you to not pay attention to the lyrics because she’s walking perfectly normally.

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So here’s a development. Jake actually witnesses Grandma get run over by Santa (we never actually see it happen on screen because I guess even that’s too violent for this movie.) Obviously, no one believes him, but then we get another development…..Grandpa watched it happen too!….And then….spent several moments just staring out the window…..And…he’s acting like it was….cool….He gives a long dramatic retelling of the events like he’s a sportscaster doing a replay.

……Okay, so it’s also a thing in the song that Grandpa’s kinda overly chill about his wife being dead – I mentioned that earlier – his apathy is part of the joke, like he was sick of her and was okay with it…..but here, Grandpa’s being a sadistic asshole. Here he WATCHES his wife get mowed down, gets all jazzed about it and just goes on like nothing happened. The fact that he watched this happen is also never brought up again, and even he doesn’t insist on searching outside for her. *More shrugs*

It’s kinda implied that he might be joking, but it’s also heavily implied that he’s not and we never really find out for sure.

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They open the door to check, but Grandma’s gone. Dad calls the cops at Jake’s insistence.

Dad: “Yes we’ve been drinking too much eggnog. *dial tone* Hello?” …..Wait, why does everyone drinking eggnog imply anything wrong with your mental state? Do you all have egg allergies or are you acknowledging the spiked eggnog thing?

Dad: “Eh, they’ll be out first thing in the morning.” How do you know that? They hung up before you were able to get out two sentences.

The next day….

Jake: “I saw Grandma get run over by a reindeer!”

Cop: “Sorry, son. Impossible. Right here in the manual. There’s no such thing as Santa Claus.” He said Grandma got run over by a reindeer, not Santa. Reindeer still exist.

Here’s where the song gets really nonsensical in regards to the movie’s story.

♪ “When we found her Christmas morning….At the scene of the attack.”♩

…………Grandma is missing. There’s no body in the snow. They, in fact, did the polar opposite of finding her Christmas morning.

They did not.

♬ “She had hoofprints on her forehead.”♫

There’s no one there. There’s no forehead to examine for hoof marks.

♪ “And incriminating Claus marks on her back.”♩

This line never once made sense. I get it, haha, Claus sounds like claws, which isn’t even good grammar in this context, but it still doesn’t make sense.

First of all, if this was just a hit-and-run, why is Santa himself leaving whatever marks he’s leaving on Grandma….do…do I even want to know?

Second, if she had hoofprints on her forehead, then she got hit from the front, which must mean she most likely fell backward, physics and whatnot. So how did any marks from Santa end up on her back?

Finally, as we’ve already gone over, there is no body here so where are these ‘Claus’ marks?

What we see in the movie is marks from a sleigh, hoofprints in the snow and an imprint of Grandma’s body.

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The cops are kinda assholes about the situation. I can’t tell if they’re being overly serious for comedic effect or if they’re just mocking Jake. I want to say the former, but they were doing the latter just a minute ago.

Cop: “Better look for the old broad.”

Were you not planning on doing that in the first place? Also, you might not want to say something like that in front of the ‘old broad’s’ family…

A year goes by with no Grandma in sight. The next part of the song occurs here, but they, oddly, don’t play the song. They recite a vastly changed version of the next verse. Here’s what was originally said.

♬ “Now we’re all so proud of Grandpa, he’s been taking this so well. See him in there watching football, drinkin’ beer and playing cards with cousin Mel.

It’s not Christmas without Grandma. All the family’s dressed in black. And we just can’t help but wonder, should we open up her gifts or send them back? (Send them back!)” ♫

Here’s what the movie says.

“Grandma’s Christmas gifts remained unopened. And people dressed in black. Grandpa tried to cope by playing cards with cousin Mel.”

That’s it.

I can understand them not wanting to show Grandpa being so blasé about his dead/missing wife, instead showing him more mourning and trying to deal with it….by playing a lot of cards with someone who would never play cards with him in the first place, but that sentiment is kinda lost when you remember the guy damn near cheered as he watched his wife get t-boned by a sleigh.

Changing the thing about her gifts was also understandable. You don’t want to open the gifts since Grandma’s just missing. She might want to open them when she gets back. And sending them back is just as bad.

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Looking real mournful, Daphne. Also, why would Mel dress in black?

I don’t get why they didn’t change the part about dressing in black. They’re ALL doing it, even Jake. Doesn’t that imply that they’ve given up hope and believe Grandma’s dead? And why are they doing it in September? They don’t dress in black all year round now, they’re wearing regular clothes outside of this scene, so….why?

The main issue I have with this overall change is, if they were fine taking the lyrics and fudging them like this for the sake of changing a scene in the movie…why not do that with the first verse? I get it in a way because it defeats the purpose of having a movie about a song if you don’t put the song in the movie, but if none of the song can be used in the movie due to content or not matching the scenes, why even bother?

Like I said, they don’t finish the song in the movie. Only when they play the full song in the credits do you hear the third verse. And if they were fine with playing the full song in the movie (the credits are still the movie) why did they feel the need to write it like this?

So, since we’ve gotten through the song parts and I’m already eight pages into this review and not even 20 minutes into this 50 minute long movie, what say we turbo through the rest?

Mel schemes to sell the store, we have one of the most random song breaks in history with the supposedly grieving widower Grandpa singing a song that clearly acknowledges Grandma is dead in the original version…..But it was a song specifically written for this movie….….*sigh*

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Since Grandpa’s a complete idiot and tool, he signs over the business to Mel as well gives her power of attorney, granting her total control over his financial affairs. Jake has one week before the deal is finalized to find Grandma since she’s the only one who can legally stop them.

Jake decides to send an email to Santa asking if he can reunite him with Grandma..

Santa: “Not a single letter from Cityville! It’s as if they’re too busy with their prefabricated and mass produced lives to need me anymore.” Subtle as a brick to the crotch, writers.

Also, maybe Santa would get a few letters from there if he waited until December – Who sends Santa a letter in SEPTEMBER!?

His email works, and you’ll never guess where Grandma is….The North Pole.

She got amnesia from the accident and has been spending her days being cared for by Santa’s people. Santa, the omniscient being, didn’t know who she was so he did the logical thing and just kidnapped her and held her for nine months. Just to be clear on this, he proves that he knows everyone, Grandma is seemingly the only other person in Cityville besides Jake who believes in Santa, and he explains to Austin Bucks later that he remembers exactly what he asked for on Christmas when he was six. There is absolutely no reason Santa would not know who Grandma is.

And even if he somehow didn’t, there are ways he could have easily found out, especially considering all of the ‘Missing’ posters her family put up around town. I would say he can’t reveal himself to other people so it’s not like he could go around asking who she is or something, but as we see later, he just waltzes through city without a care. Even when he learns of who she is, he doesn’t hop on his sleigh to give her back, he just says to send an email reply back to Jake. He either doesn’t give enough of a reindeer crap to try and actually figure out Grandma’s identity or the writers don’t give a single reindeer crap about being coherent.

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Santa’s right-hand elf, Quincy, decides to meet with Jake about it and they ET finger touch for literally no reason. *Shrugging intensifies* He brings Jake to the North Pole via song break about sharing I guess. Jake brings back still-amnesia’d-Grandma to help save the store.

However, like the idiots they are, they leave Grandma in the sleigh outside, presumably because her tummy’s upset from the ride….but she is literally the only who can do anything soooooo…..

Mel contracts her lawyer, who is, not kidding, named I.M. Slime, to make Grandma disappear again so the deal can happen. It works.

Santa relays the real story of what happened with Grandma. His reindeer were drawn to the fruitcake she was holding and he couldn’t control them, so they slammed into her.

We see Grandma with the hoofprints on her forehead, good job, but unlike when we see Jake witness the crash, and when we saw the crash in the opener, Grandma is now on her back, not her front. Santa decides to leave a note explaining what happened….in the snow I guess, because that’s where Mel found it before she hid it. Everyone in this movie is a goddamn idiot.

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Still no incriminating Claus marks on her back, but I’ll let it pass because I really, really don’t want to know.

Austin: “I’m eager to see Grandma and tell her the sale is off.” But…you were the one buying it. If it gives you so much relief to not buy it….why did you ever try to buy it in the first place? They keep trying to flip flop on whether this guy is good or bad.

They realize Grandma is missing again, and since Santa just relayed that story he’s being charged with the disappearance of Grandma……in a case that has no actual evidence with a confession that was taken with no police present, wasn’t recorded, can easily be rescinded and Grandma is still missing, so this story could all be BS anyway.

Mel wants to additionally sue Santa over this, thinking she’ll get even more insanely rich with his money, which leads to a painful song break that is so difficult to get through it’s like the audio/visual version of chewing on tin foil for a minute and a half. They repeat the same line over and over, “sing” with their terrible voices, and “dance” in samba outfits. I’m not lying when I say I really, truly, with all my heart and soul, wanted to shut off the movie in the middle of that ‘song.’ But I have barely over ten minutes left, so might as well bite the tin foil and trudge through it.

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It takes them way too long to consider Mel responsible for Grandma’s second disappearance because, again, they’re all idiots. Mel’s holding Grandma in a cabin in the woods, Jake and Quincy break in, retrieve Grandma and get—

….….Okay, so you’re telling me Mel kept Santa’s note for nearly a year and she left it on the counter in the cabin under the same vial of poison she used in Grandma’s baked goods the year prior?

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Fuck it. I don’t care anymore. Grandma gets her memory back after eating her fruitcake, Jake proves Santa’s innocence, the poison Mel put in the fruitcake was what attracted the reindeer, no one bats an eye at Jake poisoning the jury to try and prove all of this, Mel admits to literally everything she did for no reason, and then she’s put in jail because she kidnapped Grandma, this trial is ridiculous and everyone’s stupid.

The end.

Bottomline: This movie is a trial of patience. It doesn’t even attempt to make sense, especially in regards to adapting the song, and some scenes are really trying my last nerve.

Granted, there are some moments that have jokes that sort of work, and Jake’s relationship with Grandma is kinda sweet, but other than that it’s a very poorly written, horrifically animated (Courtesy of Film Roman, so that’s a warning sign off the bat) holiday slog to sit through. The songs range from ‘Passable’ (Feels like Christmas) to ‘I can feel my soul rotting’ (Grandpa’s Gonna Sue the Pants Off of Santa), and they all have that same country/folksy twang to them, if that matters to you.

Whoever thought it was a good idea to try to make a movie about this song should be run over by a real reindeer. Usually, I would try to write ways the movie could be better, like how you could change certain plot elements or characters to improve things, but my mind just seizes up when it tries to think of ways to make a good Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer movie. I just don’t think the concept works enough to make one. It barely works enough to be a song.


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Dissecting the Disquels: Leroy and Stitch (2006) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: After reforming all of the other 625 experiments and finding where they belong, Lilo, Stitch, Jumba and Pleakley are all honored by the Galactic Alliance. Jumba’s access to his old lab is restored, Pleakley has been named a professor at the Galactic Community College as an expert in earth studies, Stitch has been given the rank of captain and has access to a brand new massive spaceship called the BRB and Lilo has been named ambassador of earth.

Trouble is, this means Jumba, Pleakley and Stitch will be staying in space while Lilo goes back home to earth. They feel guilted into staying with Lilo, but eventually Lilo encourages them all to go, realizing that their true place is in space.

Jumba wastes no time taking advantage of his old lab – getting to work immediately on a new experiment. Dr. Hamsterviel, freed from prison by Gantu, orders him to design it the way he wants it: almost exactly like Stitch, but better and more evil. He names the new creation…..Leroy. With an army of cloned Leroys at his disposal and Pleakley, Jumba and Stitch out of commission, Hamsterviel plans to take over the galaxy and destroy all 625 of Stitch’s cousins.

Breakdown: I couldn’t even get through the first fifteen minutes of the movie without needing to jump on my computer and start writing about this because, goddamn, rant mode was activated in record time.

It should be noted that this movie is not technically a Disquel…really. Lilo and Stitch The Series got a movie series finale. I guess the movies do link together fine without the series, but you’d definitely be left wondering about all of the other experiments, who they are, what they do and what their homes were – that’s pretty important.

Speaking of which, we never do get to spend adequate time with all 625 experiments in the series – far from it in fact. Given that the series was made in the time of Disney’s 65 episode rule, the show was ended long before it ever got a chance to showcase all of them. Kinda makes you wonder why they’d slap that premise onto a show that they knew would never get enough episodes to go through every experiment.

But that’s not what I want to focus on right now. I want to focus on the foundation of this plot. Jumba, Pleakley and Stitch are all jazzed to return to space when given these amazing opportunities, but they feel guilty when Lilo looks sad that they’ll leave, so they agree to stay. They’re miserable back on earth, basically spending their days dreaming of what they could have had, so Lilo makes the very mature and adult decision to let them go for the sake of their happiness.

Pleakley and Jumba are….well, assholes about it. They’re jumping for joy, they give zero shits about Lilo as they’re packing and Jumba even throws the consoling words Nani gave her earlier back in her face saying they don’t make sense. It’s not until Lilo gives them parting gifts do they show a modicum of caring about their departure. They don’t even give her a way of contacting them – Later, Lilo has to ask 625, who is properly named to Reuben here, to use the video phone in Gantu’s ship.

Leroy and Stitch 1

Stitch is more visibly upset, but he’s still making the choice to go. And Stitch is the reason my rant switch got flipped.

The whole reason Lilo and Stitch were given the task of finding proper homes for the other experiments and reforming them is because Lilo was able to do that with Stitch (And Sparky, but Stitch was the starter.)

His home was with Lilo. He said as much at the end of the first movie. His one true home is back on earth. So why is he so enticed to live in space without Lilo now?

He’s not excited to go back to space because of some fancy captain title and fighting bad guys – he just wants to pilot the shiny new spaceship they gave him. The entire time that he’s sulking about not choosing to go to space, he’s making a BRB out of pans and pipes and playing with it and looking at the hologram of the ship. He’s very clearly just enamored with the damn ship.

He cares more about the shiny spaceship than staying with his family on earth. Congrats, Stitch! You’ve joined Jumba and Pleakley in assholeland.

And what was that saying?…Uhm….They said it in the first movie….Errr, it was something like uhm….Oh yeah, yeah. Ohana means ‘family’ and family means ‘Nobody gets left behind.’ I understand that it’s healthy to let go of people and part ways if you believe doing so is for their betterment. Lilo was even ready to do that in the first movie (“I remember everyone that leaves.”)

That’s why I was okay with the idea of Jumba and Pleakley leaving, though they could have been less rude about it. Jumba belongs in space in his lab (though, considering his past crimes and the fact that he talked about all of the exciting EVIL work he could do in his old lab at the friggin’ ceremony where his access was restored, he shouldn’t be getting anything. And, whatdya know, the first thing he does when he gets his lab back is start creating a new evil experiment…) and Pleakley…should….maybe be an earth professor. He’d be happy doing it anyway and he has a passion for it.

However, despite having the opportunity to do good as a space captain, is piloting a ship and commanding a crew really something Stitch would be adept at? He is good at flying, but moreso in a solo fashion. Also, I must reiterate that he didn’t seem to give a flying fork about the captain job or fighting space crime – He. Just. Wanted. The. Shiny. Ship.

Leroy and Stitch 2

The main conflict of the movie is intertwined with this plot for the most part. Jumba makes a new experiment the instant he gets back to his lab, because of course he does. He may have helped Lilo and Stitch capture the other experiments and softened up a bit, but he has always stayed pretty consistent in wanting to be evil. Perhaps to take the blame off of Jumba, Hamsterviel and Gantu burst in demanding that he make the new experiment an evil and better version of Stitch – which seems pointless because, by all means, that seems like what Jumba was planning anyway.

If you follow the TV series, and I actually did this time, you’ll probably notice that this idea isn’t really new. You can guess as much by the fact that Leroy’s number is 629 not 627 (following Stitch’s 626)

Experiment 627, who was never reformed or named, was created as a better and more troublesome version of Stitch to knock Stitch down a peg after he had gotten cocky about his ability to find and reform his cousins. Even though he’s clearly a different design than Leroy, he’s pretty close. They’re both red, have more slanted eyes and are basically just slightly different versions of Stitch. Leroy looks closer to Stitch, has different ears and is a deeper color red – also 627 has a cone-head kinda going on. As I mentioned, 627 couldn’t be reformed (which was supposedly a purposeful programming choice of Jumba because he wants actual evil experiments) so he was dehydrated and kept in his pod form.

We don’t know what 628 was. He was only shown in pod form and foreshadowed shortly after 627’s defeat. I think we can assume, considering Leroy is also an ‘improved’ version of Stitch that 628 was another ‘improved’ version of Stitch that we simply never saw.

It’s just a shame because they could have used this opportunity to make a brand new experiment that was creative, innovative and more intimidating, but nope. It’s just another recolored Stitch…..Well, he did make hundreds of clones of him, which made for a pretty good army v. army finale, so I suppose that’s something.

Here’s another something – I really loved watching Reuben and Lilo team up. This is pretty much the first and only time we see Reuben actually utilize his powers. He’s always had all of the same powers that Stitch had, but he never used most of them out of laziness. He’d mostly just make sandwiches all day.

However, Lilo recognizes his potential and bonds with him, and he finally uses his powers – quite impressively, I might add. I really enjoyed watching him and Lilo just hang out as well. When he put his hand on Lilo’s shoulder when Hamsterviel told her that Stitch was launched into a black hole, it was very touching. I wish we could’ve seen them interact more over the course of the series, with Reuben being an active good guy.

Leroy and Stitch 3

Most people who watched the series probably wanted to see all of the 626 experiments being used in some way, and, congrats, you (pretty much) do! Even though it’s unreasonable to see all of the experiments in action, not enough time or budget, honestly, you still get to see a large amount of the experiments on screen at once and most of them get a time to shine during the finale.

Even though the overall galactic takeover plot was a bit too rushed for my tastes, the ending battle is extremely well done with plenty of action and comedic moments. It’s such an interesting battle because of all of the various powers of the experiments come into play. It’s also understandable that they get overwhelmed ultimately because even though there are 626 of them, there are just as many if not more Leroys, and Leroy was designed to be even more powerful than Stitch.

The ending of the battle might seem goofy to some people, but I actually found it to be very fitting and a little touching. Jumba thought ahead when he was creating Leroy and installed an emergency shut off program within Leroy. He used Lilo’s gift, an Elvis record, as the trigger. The song he chose was Aloha oe. Lilo, Stitch and Reuben sing it to shut off the Leroys, but there’s a moment where they all sing the part ‘Until we meet again’ straight to the camera.

It was then that I remembered that not only is Leroy and Stitch the end of the TV series, it’s also the ending of the main franchise. Lilo and Stitch would never have any animated features again to date. Stitch has starred in a couple of anime since then, but Lilo is not with him, instead having adventures with other girls while Lilo has aged and departed from him. (I might talk about those series in the future, but I never had much of an interest in them, to be honest.)

When they sing that part of the song to the camera, they’re telling the audience ‘Farewell to thee. Until we meet again.’ which made me rather sad, especially considering that part of the moral of this movie was learning to accept when you need to say goodbye. Even though the series has technically been ended for well over ten years, there’s still a pang of sadness that they’re saying ‘Until we meet again’ when, as far as I know, we won’t….

Leroy and Stitch 4

Lilo and the others are honored by the Galactic Council again, but this time Stitch realizes his true place of belonging is with Lilo and relinquishes his position as captain. Gantu….somehow gets offered the position.

To his credit, Gantu did help Lilo and the others at the end, but he’s still been an enemy and Hamsterviel’s right-hand man this entire series and two movies (Three if you count the first, but he was technically just doing his job.) In fact, if it wasn’t for Gantu breaking Hamsterviel out of prison, none of this would have happened. Does the Council just not care about past actions? I can understand giving Reuben a pass, he was too lazy to be considered a criminal, but Gantu not only being let off without penalty but also getting a captain position? Are you daft?

Reuben is named Gantu’s galley officer, and Jumba and Pleakley also relinquish their lab and professor position respectively and choose to go back to Hawaii with Lilo – this time happily. Lilo and the others return to Hawaii, happy with their ohana being whole once again.

…..But Mertle’s still a bitch. Yeah, if there’s one thing that’s always been really consistent in this series it’s been Mertle’s constant bratty behavior. She’s not too prevalent in this movie, thank god, but the brief moments she is on screen, she’s being her typically bitchy self.

When Lilo’s having a low moment, right after Stitch and the others leave, Mertle kicks her when she’s down telling her she’s weird and that Stitch probably ran off because of it. She’s always been unreasonably focused on bullying Lilo, to the point where she blames her for everything, and if there’s one thing I’m thankful for with this series ending it’s that I’ll never have to see this little shit stain’s face or hear her awful voice ever again.

However, that doesn’t stop them from trying to wrap up her character in a more even light. They hint that Mertle’s father either abandoned them or is divorced from her mother, which is weird because she talked about him in a good light in Stitch has a Glitch, and even advertised his store. Then, at the end, she says she still thinks Lilo is weird, but Gigi, her pet dog who is also an experiment, wants to be with her ohana, so she kinda just barges in on their group photo at the end, which is not in the least bit earned….

Leroy and Stitch 5

For a series that is mostly based on taking evil beings and reforming them, the writers really do a crap job at doing that when it comes to any non-experiment character. Jumba’s probably the best example, but he never paid for his crimes and he’s still a decent degree of evil. Gantu never pays for his crimes, either, and now Mertle gets no comeuppance. We’re just meant to sympathize with her because they wedged in this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-and-is-questionably-canon-whatever-they’re-implying-here story about her dad being gone somehow.

I’m sorry – no. Lilo has NO parents and an overworked big sister guardian as well as a horrible bully who has barely ever said a positive word to anyone, even her mostly equally bitchy friends. My sympathy well for Mertle is so bottomed out that I’ve broken through the bottom and am making my way to the center of the earth.

As an added bonus to the end credits, they include a scrolling list of every single experiment. As I mentioned, obviously not all of these experiments were seen in this movie. However, I do really appreciate that the writers bothered to come up with names and (likely) powers for each experiment and shared them with the audience before the series came to a conclusion. It shows that they truly cared about both their product and their fans enough to complete the set, even if we only have names for a good chunk of them. You can find a list of every experiment here.

Bottomline: Leroy and Stitch is actually a pretty good movie and a great way to the end the series. The final battle adds a great touch of epicness, and I loved mostly everyone’s interactions with each other, particularly, oddly enough, Lilo and Reuben. The writing is very snappy and there are some really great jokes in here.

There is a depressing lack of Lilo and Stitch in this Lilo and Stitch movie, though, to be honest. They’re together for the first twenty minutes and don’t reunite until the last twenty minutes in this hour and fifteen minute long movie.

The pacing is fairly rushed in the Hamsterviel department, but I’m willing to overlook that. They did get a little too lazy with the redemption arcs for some of the characters with Mertle’s being ridiculously lazy, if you can even say she got redemption and if you can even call that an ‘arc.’ Also, there’s the obvious rant fodder at the start of the movie. I knew they’d stay with her in the end, but the fact remains that Jumba and Pleakley were jerks to her about leaving and Stitch left Lilo for a ship…..

The animation was really good, though again not really up to the original movie’s standards. That’s to be expected since this is basically designed as a TV movie.

Their use of music this time around was good, but not a lot that was new. We got the TV series theme song, Aloha e, Komo Mai, a bunch of Elvis songs, which is the franchise’s trademark, and the Hawaii Five-O theme song for some reason. I particularly liked their use of I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry. It was a great implementation of Jumba’s record gift and made for a nice montage of everyone after they departed for space.

Aloha, Lilo and Stitch. Hopefully, we’ll meet again.

Recommended Audience: I guess you can imply that some of the Leroy clones maybe died in the battle, and there’s a fair amount of violence, but it’s obviously not severe or graphic. These are the same people who couldn’t get up the balls to show Lilo with a scratch on her face. 5+


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Pokemon Shorties! (8) Pikachu’s Ghost Carnival Review

Pokemon Shorties Pikachu Ghost Carnival

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: Pikachu and the other Pokemon are traveling to a lakeside to have a picnic, but their journey is detoured when some nearby Ghost Pokemon (and others) who live in a Ghost House intervene. It’s their Ghost Carnival day – a day when they select one of their group to be scared by the other Pokemon who create a spooky experience in the house. After that, they have a feast and other festivities. However, their shtick has become stale doing it on each other every year, so they lure Pikachu and his pals into the house to scare them instead.

Meanwhile, Meowth, Wobbuffet and Cacnea are on a job to demolish the Ghost House to make room for a new restaurant and Pikachu and the gang have to team up with the spooky group of the Ghost House to stop them from destroying their home.

Breakdown: I swear to God, I didn’t plan this. Check the list, this was next to be reviewed on the list of shorts, and I just happened to be lucky enough to have the Halloween-ish special fall in October.

Pikachu’s Ghost Carnival, which is an inaccurate name because it’s not his carnival, is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum for Pokemon Short quality. It doesn’t have Pokemon being flung all over with no plot (Look at that plot synopsis. I have TWO paragraphs. TWO.) It’s not just cute Pokemon being cute – it’s a funny and clever I-guess-I’ll-classify-it-as-Halloween-special-there’s-a-jack-o-lantern-in-the-title-card-it-counts short.

I liked how it was a collection of various Pokemon, not just Ghost Types, who inhabited the house and enjoyed making a scary haunted atmosphere. Plenty of people (and Pokemon) enjoy pranks and creating scares for other people in an innocent and fun-loving manner. We’ve had many episodes where Ghost Types are purely the troublemakers, but here we also have a Golbat, a Cubone, a Lickitung, a Koffing and a Ditto.

I’m glad I was able to find a subbed version of this short, because this was another that actually needed it at points. I think I would’ve been able to get through without it, and the subs I have might kinda be messed up anyway, but it added to the experience immensely because the narrator acts as a translator here.

I also really loved the art and animation for this short. Like many shorts, the landscape art is very much simplified, but they also stylized it to make it pop. The lineart for the landscapes is done in white instead of black and they choose to use a large amount of colors like purple to make it nicer to look at. I also really loved the shots when the Pokemon are scared and the outer shots of the windmill. They were nicely drawn without being overly detailed.

Even though it wasn’t the best song ever, I enjoyed the ending credits song quite a bit. It captured the tone of the short just fine, was pretty catchy and felt like a summer celebration song (Which is pretty much what the Ghost Carnival was. It’s pretty clear that, despite being based on Halloween, that the short is taking place in summer.)

I also enjoyed that Meowth and the other Team Rocket Pokemon actually had a role to play in this short, unlike nearly any other short where they pretty much remind you that they exist and nothing else. Although, I was confused as to why they had a crane with no wrecking ball…so they used Cacnea. That’s a new level of giving no shits about your friend.

That being said, I did have a couple of problems with the short. First and foremost, this is the most audibly annoying thing I’ve ever experienced in recent memory. Togepi, if I ever complained about your crying, I’m sorry. This short, for a good two minutes overall, was an audio assault on my ears all because of May’s Squirtle and random Pokemon encounter that served absolutely no point, Bonsly.

They cry…a lot. And their voices while doing so are unbearable. I almost muted the short several times.

But the pinnacle of audio homicide came in the middle of the scarefest when Pikachu and the others were being targeted. Squirtle gets so scared that it starts bawling, and all of the other Pokemon, every…single…one won’t shut the hell up as they attempt to get Squirtle to calm down.

Just when you think they’ll stop stabbing my ears with their voice forks, Bonsly starts crying and I nearly lost it. I swear.

Speaking of May’s Squirtle, I don’t remember watching enough to remember how obnoxious that thing was, but even though it’s noted as being younger than Ash’s Squirtle, it’s not like it’s a baby – why does it keep bawling and acting like a spoiled brat? It’s like someone decided to fuse Togepi and Chikorita together.

Also, this may be the subs, but this short is a teensy bit….sexist towards Squirtle? I couldn’t find anything about May’s Squirtle’s gender online, but this short clearly refers to it as a girl. The first instance of noting her gender was after she plopped down on the ground whining that she was tired and refused to go on. After Pikachu was coerced into carrying her, the narrator noted that Squirtle was a “willful girl.”

Later, when the Pokemon are getting scared at the Ghost House, Squirtle starts crying and one of the Ghost House Pokemon states that it’s bad to make a girl cry….So, if her age isn’t the reason she’s a crybaby and she’s not being babied because she’s a baby….is it because she’s a girl? That’s kinda the vibe I got during those brief spots.

Also, I’m aware that she eventually evolves into a Wartortle, and even though I love Wartortle, I find it bunk that this little Togepi wannabe evolved but Ash’s Squirtle never did. Maybe I’ll feel different when I revisit those episodes, but I doubt it. It’s a similar level of salty as when I found out May eventually got her Bulbasaur to evolve all the way into Venusaur. Like, seriously, does Ash feed his Pokemon anti-evolving juice in earlier Gens?

One other final negative note was that the shtick that the Ghost House Pokemon put their visitors through got pretty stale, and we only saw it three times. I can understand if they’re sick of it if they just keep doing the same tricks in succession over and over.

All in all, this was a very fun short that I’m glad I was able to review during Animating Halloween. It’s a perfect Pokemon short to watch on both Halloween and over the summer. You obviously won’t get any scares from it, even if you’re a little kid, but it’s still a good short.

Recommended Audience: Err….I guess if your child is extremely terrified of even the slightest thing related to ghosts or horror…..2+?


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Animating Halloween: A Recess Halloween Review

A Recess Halloween 1

Plot: 3rd Street School has a new fifth grade class – and TJ and the gang are in it! Yes, the infamous fourth graders have reached fifth grade. They’re growing older, changing, maturing. But when the familiar call of Halloween comes around, Spinelli finds herself unable to get into it after Lawson and his crew mock her for being too old for Halloween. Is Spinelli just in a Halloween funk or is the gang really too old for one of their favorite holidays?

Breakdown: We get to return to Recess this Halloween!

For the last time.

I don’t just mean that as in this is the second and last Halloween special that Recess ever made, I mean that as in this is a strange case of their Halloween special being the series finale.

Recess had completed their six season run and was ready to either make a seventh season or a spin-off series (which, if the latter is true, likely would’ve been a slightly more mature Recess taking place in fifth grade instead of fourth.) They had animated three episodes of this season/series before it was suddenly canceled for no given reason.

In order to make money from what was already animated, Disney released the episodes with some new bookended animation thrown in to make a direct-to-video movie – Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade. While Halloween is a theme in all of the bookends, it is only given focus in the final entry, A Recess Halloween…..which is a really lazy title that I can only imagine was a first draft that no one bothered to rework because the title cards wouldn’t appear in this movie anyway unlike the TV series where they were always on-screen.

What I find particularly odd about this is that the show was meant to end after season five and the movie, Recess: School’s Out, was released, but it garnered a sixth season because its performance was particularly high after that. So it was popular enough to rip from its relatively sound fate and give it another season, and then, in the middle of animating the seventh season/spin-off, they suddenly cancel it out of nowhere? Why?

Unlike the previous Halloween special, which was a series of short ‘scary’ stories told by Butch, this Halloween special involves Spinelli, who is usually the one in the group most excited about Halloween, feeling like she’s outgrown the holiday due to Lawson mocking her for making Jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating. Unlike Lawson and his crew’s super mature Halloween festivities of….smashing pumpkins for no reason.

A Recess Halloween 2

Spinelli becomes very sullen after this and doesn’t partake in any Halloween festivities, even the ones they offer at school like singing Halloween songs and eating a special Halloween lunch.

Let me just share that, when I was in grade school, I was a complete wimp….I still am a complete wimp, but now I’m all about horror and Halloween. Back then, however, even though I liked Halloween, I hated horror. I hated scary things. I especially hated haunted houses and hay rides. Every year at my school, they’d have a haunted ‘house’ set up in the cafeteria, and it was someone’s bright idea to force everyone to go through it if they wanted the special Halloween bagged lunch. I didn’t want to go through because I hated haunted houses, and this one was one of haunted houses where they grab at you, and I wasn’t having any of that.

The moral of the story is, I stole special Halloween bagged lunches as a child….And now back to our program.

This isn’t so simple a case as bullies being bullies, however, because it ties into their new common theme of growing up and changing. When the gang talks about all the fun things they do on Halloween, Spinelli explains that the magic has been drained of it, no matter what Lawson told her. She truly believes she’s outgrown it.

The other kids aren’t so quick to believe her, though, and set off trick-or-treating. While they start off in strong spirits, they quickly start having the magic of Halloween lifted away from them as well.

The massive piles of candy they get from one house – sugarless.

The creepy cemetery at another? The gravestones are plywood.

A Recess Halloween 3

The creepy man sitting outside that same house that gives out candy? Animatronic. (And can I just add that the guy who owns that thing is extremely unreasonable? TJ lightly touches the animatronic man and the arm just falls off. Then the owner berates him for breaking it and tells him he has to fix it for all the kids who actually believe in that stuff….All he did was lightly touch it. What is your problem, dude?)

The creepy building they usually run from that they believe is a defunct prison haunted by inmates? It’s actually an old DMV.

It seems like the gang is doomed to sharing the same Halloween blues that Spinelli has.

Meanwhile, back with Spinelli, she has relegated herself to watching TV and handing out candy while her parents are out. When the diggers show up and tell her they’ll tell a nearby group of little kids to not visit the house because Spinelli’s such a sour grape, she decides to make a real effort to partake in the fun, if just for the sake of making those kids happy.

I really loved these brief scenes of Spinelli as she talks with the visiting kids. She gives them a fun scare and even gives another group tips on how to be scarier dinosaurs. It shows the audience that there are many ways to enjoy Halloween as you get older, and one of those ways is by creating the Halloween magic that you used to love (and might still love) for a new generation of kids.

A Recess Halloween 4

Miss Finster visits, hoping to invite Spinelli’s parents out for a Halloween party. Spinelli is surprised to see that Miss Finster, despite her advanced age, is as much into Halloween as any kid. Showing a true sign of maturity, Spinelli asks to have a talk with Miss Finster about her conflicting feelings on Halloween. She thinks she’s too old for it, but tonight has shown her that she feels like she’s missing out on a bunch of fun.

Lending an understanding ear, Miss Finster tells her that age has nothing to do with liking stuff such as Halloween. You either like it or you don’t. It’s what you feel in your heart that truly matters. And you shouldn’t let anyone tell you what you should and shouldn’t like.

I enjoyed this interaction with Spinelli and Miss Finster. Not only do I love when Ms. Finster shows her much nicer mentor side (Especially to Spinelli because it’s a nice touch of continuity that the two are friends through Finster’s friendship with Spinelli’s parents), but I also like when we get peaks into her non-school personality. She’s very much a fun-loving gal.

Spinelli then decides to make the best of the night and go join her friends on their trick-or-treating rounds. She comes across Hustler Kid….who is wearing a Nixon mask. I laughed for a good minute at his scene. I doubt any kid watching that would get the joke of his costume mixed with his character, but it was hilarious to me.

A Recess Halloween 5

Hustler Kids tells her the bad news that her attitude rubbed off on the other kids and now they’re having a terrible Halloween too. Spinelli feels incredibly guilty, but knows just what to do to make up for it.

She invites them out to their last usual stop, which is a house they believed was owned by vampires. The owners, however, moved out since the last Halloween, so Spinelli suggests that they, being super mature grown ups, go inside and look around.

Awaiting them is a slue of scares that she, Miss Finster, Miss Grotke, Principal Prickly and some of the other adults from town set up to scare the pants off of the gang. The plan works. They had a good scare and some great fun. Spinelli explains that they can grow up and mature while still enjoying everything they loved, like Halloween, if they still make the choice to like it, and they should never let anyone tell them otherwise.

This is a great message. It’s not about shedding something other people perceive as childish just to be more ‘grown up’ and it’s not about locking yourself in childhood nostalgia forever. It’s about letting yourself enjoy anything you want without allowing anyone to bully you into conforming to their view of what you should like or partake in, especially if it’s based on stupid qualifiers like age or gender. (And, hey, if I did that, I certainly wouldn’t be on this blog right now talking about cartoons and anime.)

A Recess Halloween 6

The kids get a heaping helping of (sugary) candy and they all enjoy their Halloween together.

The end.

———————————

I really loved this Halloween special, and I’m a bit miffed that it is so good since I never saw this when I was a kid. Because it was a direct-to-video movie, I just never owned it and thus never saw it. I did see Recess: School’s Out in theaters and later owned it on VHS (still have it) but when it came to the other direct-to-video movies and specials, I never was able to get them. I’m not sure if they ever aired on TV. I only remember a lot of advertisements for the VHS.

For some reason I have the oddest feeling of Deja Vu when watching another episode in this movie, The Fifth and Sixth Grader’s Club, but I honestly don’t know why. Maybe I’m confusing that episode for another.

I’m disappointed Recess ended the way it did. Even though this is, technically, also a pretty sound ending to the series, I feel like this is one of those shows where we should have at least gotten a peak into their adult lives as the series finale. What’s especially strange is that the following movie (Which is not regarded as the series finale because it’s a prequel), a movie called Recess: All Growed Down is basically the exact opposite of what I wanted or expected because it follows the exploits of the kids in kindergarten (and also retcons it so that the gang knew Gus briefly as small children when he was supposed to be a new kid at the start of series.)

….Does anyone else find it weird that they canceled the series while Taking the Fifth Grade’s episodes were in production, yet after that release they make another new movie?

Recess is still a show near and dear to me, and I’m honored to review their last Halloween special and series finale for everyone on this year’s Animating Halloween.

Final Note: I find it kinda funny that TJ goes on about Spinelli always has the best and creepiest costumes on Halloween, but the two times we see her dressed up in this special she just has regular clothes on with a relatively bland mask added.


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