They're faster and stronger than Superman, as big as the Hulk's pinky toe, and cuter than the Wonder Twins. They're the Powerpuff Girls (IMDb listing)! And they're here to save the summer from lousy family entertainment.
It's a rough time for Townsville City. Crime is at an all-time high with no end in sight. Tired of all the ugliness that surrounds him, Professor Utonium decides to retreat to his laboratory to mix sugar, spice and the volatile Chemical X into a batter. Presto! The blend gives birth to Bubbles, Buttercup, and Blossom, aka The Powerpuff Girls. Born with super powers, the girls are quickly ostracized from society when an elaborate game of tag destroys the city. While the girls are away, evil arises in the form of a mutated monkey named Mojo Jojo who is bent on taking over humanity. Hearing the cries of the people to return to Townsville, The Powerpuff Girls must overcome their lack of self-confidence in order to save the day and their beloved Professor Utonium.
I must admit, this is my first foray into "Powerpuff Girl" land. Making their big screen debut after years of tearing up the ratings on the Cartoon Network, The Powerpuff Girls now have a forum worthy of their charms. I've admired director and creator Craig McCracken's work before, particularly the bizarre "No Neck Joe" shorts he did for the touring Spike And Mike animation shows. The "Joe" shorts featured ridiculous, ironic humor laced with stylized, minimalist animation. "Powerpuff Girls" is no different, and presents an even bigger palette for McCracken to unleash his sinister sense of humor.
While blockbuster animation outfits try to outdistance each other with all the latest toys and wizardry, "Powerpuff Girls" keeps things relatively simple, but not so much that it looks cheap and ugly (like the recent "Hey Arnold!" feature). McCracken uses strongly outlined, iconic action hero poses in his animation, choosing to let sound effects, backgrounds, or voice work tell the story in place of over-amplified animation. This allows "Powerpuff Girls" to be incredibly relaxed and free with its look. It's a breath of fresh air in a summer of over-abundance. While not technically a gorgeous feast for the eyes, the animation always compels. Coupled with the franchise's already established berserk pacing, the final result is a picture packed with enough goodies to devour for the 70-minute running time.
Another golden element in the film, more specifically the story, is how McCracken gets mileage out of the monkey clichés that take up the picture's climax. Mojo Jojo wants to take over Townsville with an army of mutated monkeys. One of them plans to destroy humanity by placing banana peels everywhere, another group of interlocking monkeys come from a barrel and they wrap around the city to seal its fate, and finally, and most uproariously, there's a giant ape that drops bombs out of his hindquarters and flings them at all who cower in fear. It took me a while to understand that last one. The monkey gags are simply great, providing the film with a fresh angle for humor, and while it's a rare foray into potty humor for this movie, it's rather characteristic of the type of comedy you'll get when you walk into this well done little cartoon.
Filmfodder Grade: B+