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Power Puff Girls

 

Gen X review powerpuff girlsMy name is Randy and I’m...


Work your way through it. You can do it.


That is, I like...


That’s it. Slowly. We’re here for you.


I like the Power Puff Girls!

But it wasn’t always like this, he adds hastily. My wife started me on the habit by turning the show on while I was reading The Horse magazine.


I’d catch a glimpse of Bubbles eating cereal or Blossom working on a coloring book while glancing over a full-spread centerfold shovelhead Harley or righteously butchered Triumph. I’d grunt disgustedly and return to my magazine. Some guy called Nails had chopped a mean-looking Bonnie and --


I glanced up at the television and saw a gleeful, evil little monkey in a cape. The thing smiled, tossed back its head and cackled: “It was I who did it -- Me! I am the one and no one else but me! I am the responsible party! Me, MOJO JOJO! Bwahahahahaha!”


That’s when Mojo Jojo entered my life. Mojo is the sinister monkey counterpart to the Power Puff Girls, a fantastic combination of Fu Manchu and Gleek from the Super Friends. I have always had a thing for evil little monkeys, as my poor nephews and nieces can attest to, and Mojo Jojo is the best evil little monkey in the world, bar none.


I was fascinated by Mojo and slowly drawn into the series. The art isn’t primitive so much as elemental. Like The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy, the humor works on many levels and there’s actually a pretty sophisticated cultural critique running along the peripherals. Somehow edgy without resorting to fart humor or overt “hip” cultural references, the Power Puff Girls  are smart, sweet and marvelously retro.


An so it was that I dragged my wife to the opening of the new Power Puff Girls movie.


The movie retells the origin of the America’s favorite riot girrls and the Power Puff Girls have lost none of their cute appeal in the journey onto the big screen. When a lonely professor decides to make three sweet, little girls he forgets about the test monkey in his lab. As he adds the last ingredient to the mix -- which is comprised of sugar, spice and everything nice -- the monkey shatters a beaker of Chemical X and the laboratory explodes.

When the dust clears, Professor Utoniam discovers that he has succeeded in creating the girls and they are the gosh darn cutest little things... He names them Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup. Blossom is the unofficial leader of the group; Bubbles is the youngest, sweetest girl; and Buttercup is the feisty, dark-haired one.


The girls are everything the professor has dreamed of and more: The mysteriousChemical X has imbued them with strange and wonderful powers. They can fly, shoot laser beams from their eyes and are amazingly quick and agile.


However the experiment has also created the strange, super-intelligent Mojo Jojo. When the monkey was caught in the blast he too gained super powers! Yes, Mojo Jojo himself was caught in the explosion. It was he who was the one and he too then had super powers!


Ahem, yes, well...

 

Despite the fact that it was way cool to see my favorite evil monkey looming 50 feet tall, I was a little disappointed in the Power Puff movie. It simply wasn’t as funny, cute or charming as the best episode of the series. There are so few real funny moments that I won’t spoil them by recounting them here and although the girls have made the transition onto the big screen without so much as mussing their hair, there is a distinctive “small box” feel to the film.


Colorful, blocky characters look no more impressive on the big screen than on TV, so don’t expect any but the youngest children to be awestruck by the film. The action scenes are full of pizzazz, but very few people will marvel at this level of animation. The quaintness of artwork is what wins folks over, but projected onto a big screen it appears somehow manipulative, almost -- dare I say? -- kitschy.


Nothing new emerges from the film: No startling new information, no new enemies, and not a single novel idea. Mojo is very cool, of course, but the poor little guy can’t carry the film on his hairy shoulders.


For those who presume to be experts on the series -- which I’m definitely not, he adds, sounding just a little defensive -- the movie will seem rote and unexciting. Those who want to sample the girls would do better just to buy one of the many video tapes on the market or simply watch the show on Cartoon Network.


Sometimes sugar, spice and everything nice isn’t enough. Next time how about a feature-length biography on Mojo Jojo, eh?

 
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Windtalkers

 

gen x movie review windtalkersWhat little novelty is embedded in the new war film Windtalkers is obliterated well before the final, well-rehearsed battle scene. The small spark of imagination that may drive many of you to the theaters simply can’t survive the systematic charge of formula writing, bad acting and -- honestly -- not very good action shots.

Windtalkers is about Navajo Americans who were recruited as Marines and trained to use their language as code during World War II. The story follows several Navajos as they battle at the front lines on Japanese soil. Italian-American killing machine Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage) is assigned to protect one of the “windtalkers.” Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) is a sweet young Navajo father. Pairing off against Yahzee and Enders is another GI pair played by Christian Slater and Roger Willie.


Enders is a fearless soldier, but he isn’t much of a person, and a love story attached to the plot feels like an unnatural appendage. The idea that Enders could love anyone or anything is preposterous, since he is the “vengeful spirit of retribution!” TM  not a mere mortal. You could plumb this guy’s psychological depth in a bath tub and the film feels insincere when it tries to paint him as a tortured hero.


And although the film pretends to address an interesting premise -- Native Americans in World War II -- it is really all about seeing Cage rage into battles like a Rambo knock-off.


The battle scenes are choreographed oddly and often repeat the same showy explosion over and over again. Worse still, one gets the feeling that wars are fought by a half dozen guys and several hundred extras. It’s as though the battle shots were intended for one hero, not an army. As a result the film feels like an action film with an extended cast rather than a war epic.


Soldiers wander off to perform sacred magic rituals or just skinny dip in serene bathing nooks. It’s like Woodstock with cheesy Navaho flute playing and you wonder how we ever beat the Japanese with such free spirits. Hey man, do you, like, want to kill some Japanese soldiers..?, you can almost hear these soldiers say.

It’s a good thing these hippies have the formula to keep them straight. Windtalkers is so prefabricated that it should be sold in a cereal box at Wal-Mart. Flat-as-a-pancake characters, paint-by-numbers battles, well-recognized clichés – Windtalkers is so formulaic that it is less itself than merely a reconfiguration of the genre. But you have to admire the way the film courageously avoids being merely just another intense, psychological drama about the horrors of war, yes?


Films like Windtalkers are amazingly relaxing affairs because they say, “It’s okay, you don’t have to pay attention to the story line. You know how every conflict is going to be resolved. Just turn your brain right off, buddy.” This is a real treat, because it means you can allow your mind to wander in all sorts of fascinating places.


You might, for example, wonder what Christian Slater put in his hair in 1983 that has kept it so rigid throughout the last two decades. Alternatively, you may try to recollect when Nicolas Cage wasn’t playing a 40-year-old burn out. These are fun little internal debates and they really do help you forget the mediocrity going on in front of you.


I began considering the similarities of the name “Yahzee” and the popular dice game Yahtzee. I recalled a long trip I’d taken to Florida with my aunt Doris and her family when I was maybe 10. We drove an RV-like truck across country and I often found myself shoved in the small space that overlapped the cab. The only time I’d come down from my nest was to go to the bathroom or play Yahtzee with Doris or my cousins.


I recall the feeling of confinement and subtle manipulation, as though I was folded away in a drawer somehow and only taken out to be beaten senseless in some travel game. Watching Windtalkers was similar somehow – I felt at the service of the code, like those new age video games where your only goal is to complete a story line some creepy cyberpunk had dreamed up – but of course I liked my aunt and cousins, whereas I cheered for the characters in Windtalkers to be blown to cardboard pieces…


And unlike Yahtzee, which is largely a game of luck, there is nothing even remotely unpredictable, unexpected or interesting about Windtalkers. It’s like playing solitaire with a fixed deck of cards.

 
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