It’s been a long road for the Craig McCracken/Genndy
Tartakovsky team, starting out with a few cartoon one-offs about
a silly girl who loves to dance and generally annoy her brainy
little brother, and another about a freakish backwoods monster
who goes berserk when his meat jam fails to win over the judges
at a crafts fair. Over the years, they have learned to refine
the art of cartooning, plumbing the depths of the cartoons they
love, to extract the best elements to "homage", and playing
with those elements in a new form. Take the newest creation,
Samurai Jack, on the Cartoon Network, a real gem
of an animated feature. Or, take their latest offering, The
Powerpuff Girls Movie.
The look and feel of the movie is definitely steps beyond what
they felt comfortable with on the small screen. While they still
keep the basic elements that give The Powerpuff Girls
its own unique style, they are able to take the highlights of
these elements and extend them out into something truly spectacular
and enjoyable to watch. The story itself doesn’t try to be an
epic or anything; it basically covers the first few days of
the Powerpuff Girls existence, how Mojo Jojo got his volcano-top
observatory, and the first time the Girls discover that they
can be heroes with their powers.
But the movie really shines when it just lets itself go and
lets the flow of the action direct the movie. For instance,
one of the earlier sequences follows the girls during an out-of-control
game of tag. During this whole scene, which itself is actually
quite long, I was really into it, probably as much as I was
during some of the dogfight scenes in Star Wars.
The swooping and the colors and the expressions of the girls
and the hapless citizens of Townsville really made this into
something fun. The animation itself, at once a tribute to Japanese
anime style and simplicity, takes the clean lines and stylization
to a truly technically refined place, and lets the basic ideas
shine in a way that might be tough to capture on the small screen.
This might be a place for the people who watch the TV show who
ask, “Why do they draw it that way?” to understand the real
beauty of what the artists were trying to accomplish.
One nice thing about this movie is it doesn’t try to “work
on two levels”. I think during the entire ninety minutes of
the movie, there were maybe three or four jokes or references
that you wouldn’t expect little kids to get. But for the most
part, the things I thought were funny were the same things my
ten-year-old fellow attendees thought were funny; the same things
I thought were touching, they thought were touching; the same
things I thought were cool, they thought were cool. It really
shows what can be done with a simple approach to cartooning.
It doesn’t try to out-Shrek Shrek or anything,
and that’s nice. I can understand adult parents not wanting
to watch an hour and a half of Happy Little Elves
or something, but if you’re an adult and you don’t enjoy what
a fun movie this is, you really take life too seriously. It’s
okay if you don’t want to admit to other adults that you enjoyed
this movie, just so long as somewhere inside of you, some part
of your psyche is going “Swoosh! Swoosh! Pow!” And if you want
to do that on the outside, around the parking lot after the
movie lets out, well, that’s perfectly understandable too.