A scene from 'Pokemon - The First Movie'
Courtesy Photo
* stars 89 minutes | Rated: G
Opened: Friday, November 12, 1999
Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama

This movie received a dishonorable mention in the Worst of 1999 list.


Start your kids on stuff this bad and they'll never have any taste in movies.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 3/21/2000

Near-plotless 'Pokemon' feature simply a cheap way to cash in on phenomenon

By Rob Blackwelder

Until I was debriefed at length by the father of a 5-year-old girl sitting in front of me at the preview screening of "Pokemon: The First Movie," all I knew about this Japanese-import cartoon phenomenon was that there was a cute, yellow cat-like character with a lighting bolt-shaped tail I kept seeing all over the World Wide Web.

Before I could stop him, the addicted daddy explained to me that there are 151 Pokemons -- a menagerie of mutant pets, each with special powers employed to defeat others in non-lethal, kiddie versions of cock fights. He told me about Poke-trainers and Poke-masters -- the Pokemon's human owners who care for them and train them for said battles, which come across like Dungeons and Dragons showdowns between Hello Kitty characters. He told me all about ambitious, heroic Poke-trainer Ash and his loyal Pokemon named Pikachu, the aforementioned cute yellow thing that communicates only by repeating its name with a series of different pronunciations.

"Pika-CHU! Piiiiiiiikachu! Pikachu-pikachu-pikachu! Pi-KA-chu!"

But anyone reading this review probably knows all this already because they have a child like this gentleman's adorable five-year-old, who kept interrupting with "That's not right, daddy!" before explaining where he went wrong with each of his Poke-mistakes.

The reason I'm telling you this is to make the point that listening to this loquacious fellow and his little girl explain Pokemon (an compound word from the Japanese for "pocket monster") to me for half an hour was endlessly more entertaining than the movie itself, which is nothing more than a (very) cheap way for Warner Bros. to cash in on a hot kiddie trend.

Even the kindergarten target audience will be hard-pressed to sit still for this elementary and lumbering Saturday morning reject adventure about the battle between a batch of benevolent Pokemons and an evil, bio-engineered super-clone Pokemon named MewTwo, spliced from a legendary, all-powerful Pokemon and bent on enslaving the world.

It's silly, psychological tripe about science run amok, with a half-hour of low-end, anime battle scenes (Pikachu screws up his face in concentration and lighting shoots from his whiskers!) that stop suddenly when the original Mew shows up to teach MewTwo the error of his ways (the practical upshot: Fighting Is Bad).

The first 20 minutes of the movie -- actually a short, featuring Pikachu and many of his fellow Pokemon on vacation -- is far more amusing than the dreary story that follows. That part is a semi-psychedelic romp through a summer camp-like amusement park, with a variety of Pokemons -- creatures based on dragons, turtles, cats, mice, ducks and half-hatched eggs.

It's dull, frankly, but not when compared to the main feature.

In short, you'll thank yourself if you can convince your kids to wait for the "Pokemon" movie on video (it won't be more than a few months). Then, at least, they can watch it without you.

And if you need an alternative, take them to "Elmo in Grouchland," which is more positive, more laughs and almost as much fun for grown-ups as for kids.


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