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The Powerpuff Girls Movie
Reviewed by Martin Thomas, © 2002

Format: Movie
Released:   July 5, 2002
Review Date:   July 04, 2002
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)
Believe me, I have no illusions about the "power" of anything I say. But when I see Scooby Doo becoming the #1 movie in the country, it really hits home.
I just don’t know how you guys do it. I mean the way you still get excited when you hear about a movie adaptation of a TV cartoon series. I know the promise of big budget special effects and big name actors is seductive, and all… But seriously, how often have you seen one of these things that wasn’t a slight, if not utter disappointment?

Scooby Doo is not even the best example of this. On top of starring (ugh!) Freddie Prinze, Jr., and being purposefully stripped of its minute fibers of subtext in favor of making it more kid-friendly (i.e.; bankable), the original Scooby Doo cartoons were dog crap (sorry) to begin with. Honestly, if you ever see a good episode of Scooby Doo, it would be a good idea to run out and buy a lottery ticket.

A much better example would be Beavis & Butthead, which for its time was one of the sharpest, edgiest, and yes, most vulgar cartoons out there. The possibility of how far a movie version, devoid of network censors, could go made my mouth water. So I was kinda let down that Beavis & Butthead Do America, while not a bad movie, was so much tamer than the TV show.

I understand the economic realities all too well at this point—those backpacks, lunch boxes and home pregnancy kits aren't gonna sell themselves. So it intrigues me even more that The Powerpuff Girls Movie decided to go a different route.

Now, before discussing the movie I think it only fair that I tell you that The Powerpuff Girls is my oldest daughter’s favorite TV show and I’ve seen every episode several times over. As such, I’ve reached the conclusion that…

I HATE THE POWERPUFF GIRLS!

W-Why?
What d’you mean, “Why?" Isn’t it obvious? Have you never seen the show?

"Using their ultra-super powers, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup have dedicated their lives to fighting crime and the forces of evil!"

Every week (daily now) this little show about three super-powered kindergarten girls, that looks like it’s gonna be a cross between My Little Pony and Sailor Moon, comes on and turns out to be a kickass, action-packed superhero/ Japanese anime deconstruction designed with a 60s retro style and infused with obscure pop culture references covering the full spectrum—anywhere from breakfast cereal mascots to Van Halen song lyrics. Even the girls’ father, Professor Utonium, was modeled after Dave Seville, the "father" from the original Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoons.

Now do you see why I hate The Powerpuff Girls?
Hmmn. Maybe you just don’t know the history:

(cue thunder)
It all started with a little bit of sugar, spice, everything nice and a liberal spillage of Chemical X…Thus, the Whoop Ass Girls were born!

You heard me right. The Whoop-Ass Girls was a side project that creator Craig McCracken worked on in between his increasingly annoying segments of No Neck Joe, which ran along side Beavis & Butthead as one of the staples of the Spike and Mike’s Sick & Twisted Animation Festivals for years. Simultaneously, Ted Turner was creating the Cartoon Network as a vehicle to milk some value out of his recently purchased backlog of forgotten Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Inasmuch as Hanna-Barbera was maybe the least original of all the old 'get it done by Tuesday' animation studios, the Cartoon Network was virtually unwatchable.

That was until they got the idea to hold a contest for new animators to surrender… er, submit their own creations, with the winners receiving their own series. The results were mixed but mostly positive. Of the handful of properties chosen to go into production on weekly series, the two most requested cartoons were from the creative team of Gendy Tartakovsky, Paul Rudish & Craig McCracken: Dexter’s Laboratory and the newly modified Whoop Ass Girls, with a slight name change…

…Thus, The Powerpuff Girls were born!

Even though Dexter premiered months before, The Powerpuff Girls’ popularity far surpassed it. It did for the Cartoon Network what South Park did for Comedy Central.

Even though both shows (as well as the team's latest creation, Samurai Jack) are executed with the same cross-generational sensibilities, The Powerpuff Girls’ break out status can probably be chalked up to its enormous cross-gender appeal. The three heroines, with their distinctive personalities, make the perfect role models for little grrrls everywhere. Finally, a superhero cartoon that welcomed girls AND boys to the party.

Now is it clear why I hate The Powerpuff Girls?!
Because… I… didn’t… come up with it! There!

As a semi-successful (and I stress the word ‘semi’) comic book artist and animator, I’ve spent the better part of my career trying to create such a property with so many creative possibilities, not to mention marketability. I mean… Dammit, I’m at a loss for what to do with the rest of my life now.

It is only logical at this point that there would be a Powerpuff Girls movie, but let me first assure you that unlike Hey Arnold! The Movie (which should’ve been titled Hey, Arnold, You Suck!), it’s no straight-to-video movie blown up twice-size. It is a REAL movie with enhanced animation and an oddly sophisticated script.

If you’ve watched the show even once, you already know the origin of the Powerpuff Girls because it’s announced in the intro—and if you’re a “true believer” you probably caught the episode that reveals that the Chemical X accident was actually caused by the Professor’s lab assistant Jojo, who would in turn became the Girls' arch-enemy, Mojo Jojo. Turns out there was quite a bit that happened between that event and their officially becoming the weekly saviors of Townsville. The Powerpuff Girls Movie is a detailed account of their first week of life and I guarantee, whether you’re a huge fan or have never seen the show, it’s not what you expect.

The birth of the girls is truly adorable, with an undercurrent of sterile creepiness that’s usually reserved for Stanley Kubrick movies. It gave me the same shiver I got from the first third (the good part) of A. I., or better yet, Edward Scissorhands. This mood continues through their first day at Pokey Oaks Kindergarten, when an innocent game of tag leaves Townsville all but a smoking crater. From here the movie gets… well, um, a lot darker.

The citizens of Townsville are not at all amused by six year olds with the powers of gods and are merciless in showing their abject hatred. The movie borders on being downright depressing at times. Surprisingly, none of the kids at the screening I went to seemed too broken up about it, but we adults were constantly muttering to ourselves, "Daaaaammn."

Just before you’re about to refill your prescription of Zoloft, the fun comes back into the movie in the third act, in the form of an all out war between the girls and Mojo Jojo’s enormous battalion of super-simians. The action is off the scale and the jokes fly so fast and furious that there’s no way you’ll be able to catch them all in one viewing. It blows anything from Star Wars or Wind Talkers right off the screen and is worth the price of admission alone.

It’s a ballsy move, for sure. Considering that there is no “bad” episode of The Powerpuff Girls, they had every reason—and right—to make the movie just an extended episode of the show. Yet they used the opportunity to make something of substance, and remind everyone that the show was always written for adults first.

Aaaarrgh! Curses!
Even when they have the perfect opportunity to sell out, they still come out on top!

The Powerpuff Girls stand as a monument to my own failures. And so, like Antonio Salieri and J.Jonah Jameson before me, I will continue to hate and plot their destruction…

…Hmmn…

….Come to think of it… Considering that The Powerpuff Girls Movie is aimed at an ambiguous demographic, opening opposite Men in Black 2, and is being released by a non-Disney studio, it’s very likely it will suffer the same ill-fate as The Iron Giant—‘the greatest animated movie no one went to see.’

Heh-heh…

…Ha! Ha! Ha!…

…MOO-HOO-HOO-HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAH!!!! *cough*

…Eh… although…

…that’ll probably just give them more street cred and an even bigger cult following… Thus, leaving me like Mojo Jojo:

Angry.

Short.

And green with envy…

Curse you, Powerpuff Girls!

*sniff* Curse you.


RevolutionSF contributor Martin Thomas is a retired comic book artist living out his remaining years hosting two movie review TV shows down in Austin, Texas.

 
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