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The Man Who Just Didn’t Get It

2 minute read
Richard Corliss

A movie critic is no more likely to ask for mercy than he is to dish it out. And his first rule is: never plead ignorance. But this time a confession and a request are in order.

Know this, Pokemoniacs: your world is alien and barren to me. I have never so much as held a Game Boy–though in my role as uncle, I have held boys who were playing the game. I don’t know the Pokemon toys, cards or comic books. I once watched 10 minutes of the Pokemon TV show, and that particular episode must have been the antidote to the one that provoked seizures in 700 Japanese kids; it put me near to sleep. So as I describe my exasperation with Pokemon: The First Movie, be gentle in your derision. Sometimes the young have to indulge their elders.

I was ready to return the favor as I watched Pikachu’s Vacation, a harmless, mildly inventive short cartoon that precedes the feature. The plot, eventually, is about the communal effort to pull a dragon’s head out of a drainpipe. But the fun comes before, as the whole gang cavorts–heads rolling, bodies warping–in a cheery Dadaist vaudeville that echoes Bob Clampett’s 1938 Looney Tunes triumph, Porky in Wackyland.

Then comes the feature, and charm is replaced by the dull treatment of a way-too-familiar scenario. As in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, an evil genius lords it over a mountainous island patrolled by a supermonster. The monster here is Mewtwo, a kitty clone or copycat of cuddly Mew. And as in Toy Story, the old-fashioned toys (like Mew) have to teach the mechanized ones (like Two) a bit about human values.

Now if someone would instruct the filmmakers about cartoon values. This picture has none. It lacks visual wit and expressiveness of movement. It has no pace, or even much of a pulse. As a Rastafarian moviegoer might say, “It’s pokey, mon.”

Last confession: I’m as eager to pretend understanding of a hot fad as any journalist. And I do like things kids like; this summer I read all three Harry Potter books, aloud and enthralled, to my wife. So I’m no grinch. Honest. I’m just a guy who loves good cartoons and, when he sees a bad one, gets a little…bit …UPSET.

–By Richard Corliss

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