UK Release Date: 20th October 2017
Runtime: 104 minutes
Director: Jayson Thiessen
Writer: Meghan McCarthy, Rita Hsiao, Michael Vogel
Starring: Tara Strong, Emily Blunt, Liev Schreiber, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, Cathy Weseluck, Zoe Saldana, Kristin Chenoweth
Synopsis: When an evil unicorn kidnaps three of the princesses of Equestria, the Princess of Friendship and her friends must go on an adventure to bring them home.
Sometimes, as a film critic, you sit for two hours to watch a film only to realise when the lights go up that you haven’t understood a solitary second of what has unfolded on the screen. You emerge, blinking, into the light of the corridor and wander across the car park to your vehicle without really processing the supposed entertainment you have just seen. This was exactly my experience with My Little Pony: The Movie, which is a film that I absolutely did not comprehend. However, I can’t bring myself to be cynical about something so joyous and pure of heart.
The plot, so far as I could understand, focuses on peppy Princess Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong), who is trying to put on a friendship festival, complete with an equine Sia as musical headliner. She is interrupted by the Storm King (Liev Schreiber) and his minion Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt), who is a shunned unicorn with a broken horn. They kidnap the other princesses of Equestria, triggering a quest for rescue that includes avian pirates in a flying ship, singing mermaid unicorns and a shifty feline con artist. I kid you not.
My Little Pony: The Movie isn’t so much a work of narrative cinema as it is an extended television episode that splinters off into a series of vignettes. More than that, though, it’s a sensory assault of rainbow colours and shrill voices that is occasionally overwhelming. Watching this film is like being strapped down and having an entire bag of pick ‘n’ mix injected into your bloodstream through your eyeballs for two hours. It delivers its sickly sweet moral messages with a mostly straight face (“you already have all the magic you need”), but no one is coming to this film for subtlety.
Despite its nauseating hyperactivity and heavy-handed moralising, there’s something charming about a film that is so committed to colour, sunshine, rainbows and smiles. It would be churlish to criticise or hate a film made up almost entirely of silly set pieces and genuinely engaging musical numbers, with vocal appearances from the likes of Emily Blunt and musical theatre legend Kristin Chenoweth. This only gets it so far and it does outstay its welcome at almost two hours long, but there’s enough glitter and sparkle to light up the smile of even the most cynical viewer.
On a personal level, I still have an enduring love for Pokémon: The First Movie, which was released back in 2000. As a kid, it affected me enormously and, as a result, I still love it more than 15 years later and the ending still brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it. For a lot of today’s kids, My Little Pony: The Movie will be their Pokémon – and I’m not hypocritical enough to begrudge them that.
Pop or Poop?
It won’t surprise the makers or fans of My Little Pony: The Movie to know that the film completely went over the head of this critic – a man in his early twenties. However, it’s a film precision-tooled to appeal to its target audience and there’s a real charm to its bouncy enthusiasm and sense of fun. Its bum-numbing runtime, though, might be an issue for those with more impatient kids. Maybe waiting for the DVD might be better in that case.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.