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Movie Review: "My Little Pony" Knows Its Fan Base And Aims To Please Them

Starring the voices of Emily Blunt, Tara Strong, 
Ashleigh Ball, Rebecca Shoichet, Andrea Libman, 
Cathy Weseluck, Kristin Chenoweth, Liev Schreiber, 
Michael Peña, Uzo Adura, Taye Diggs, Sia, and Zoe Saldana
Screenplay by Meghan McCarthy and Rita Hsiao
and Michael Vogel

Directed by Jayson Thiessen

Reviewed by Patrick Gibbs

Out of Four

It goes without saying that My Little Pony: The Movie does not exactly signal the beginning of the Oscar race. If you're going into any movie movie with the Hasbro name attached to it with high expectations, you either don't live in reality as I know it, or you are four, in which case, good job on navigating to this page.

Stay gold, Pony Girl!
(Image Courtesy Lionsgate and Allspark Pictures.)
The films begins with the Princess of Friendship for Equestria, Twilight Sparkle (voice of Tara Strong), leader of the "Mane 6" ponies, nervously preparing for the Friendship Festival. Our alicorn (a winged horse with a horn on it's head) protagonist is determined that everything must go off without a hitch (any party for horses must not involve a hitch) especially with the famous pop star Songbird Serenade (voice of Sia) set to perform. Luckily she is surrounded by her best pony friends: Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity and Fluthershy, as well as her faithful assistant Spike, a baby dragon.

But a dark force threatens Equestria in the form of the Storm King (voice of Liev Schrieber), who conquers other lands to steal their magic. The Storm King also has an unexpected ally: Tempest Shadow (voice of Emily Blunt), an embittered unicorn who is working for the villain because he has promised to restore her broken horn. It is not until much later that we learn the tragic story of Tempest's past (Spoiler Alert: Her horn got broken. That's pretty much it.)

In order to save Equestria, the "Mane 6" embark on an epic journey into the unknown, where they will meet new friends and challenges on a quest to use the magic of friendship to save their home, and maybe, just maybe, sell a crapload of merchandise.

An All-Star(ish) voice cast assembles to lend their voices and enthusiastically
collect sizable paychecks for  minimal  work in My Little Pony: The Movie
(Image Courtesy Lionsgate and Allspark Pictures)
The plot manages to be flimsy and confusing at the same time, and the attempts at clever dialogue never get much better than saying "every pony" in place of "everybody" over and over and over again. For those who are not familiar with the source material, the film makes little attempt to be accessible (aside from making sure that very little actually happens during the film, which helps make it hard to get completely lost.).

Captain Celaeno (Zoe Saldana) and
whichever  one is the Blue Pony. 

(Image Courtesy Lionsgate and Allspark Pictures.).
This movie is really nothing more than syrupy and opportunistic commercialism made to exploit gullible fans, and I frankly have no excuse for the fact that I am listening to the soundtrack album as I write this review. Oh sure, the movie was watchable enough, and the ponies are kind of cute when they are not being too cutesy. Oh, and Blunt, Schreiber, Diggs and Saldana seem to be having fun with their roles, Schrieber is clearly relishing the silliness of his villain character, and the other three are having a lot of fun with the opportunity to sing so much (we knew Diggs and Blunt had pipes, but Saldana is a pleasant surprise.) Blunt also brings more depth to her character than seems possible simply by really committing to it and being an actress who can sell anything. And I suppose the novelty of seeing old fashioned, hand drawn animation on the big screen again in a time when almost no one is doing it is noteworthy, even if it's not exactly Disney caliber. But aside from these features, there's nothing I can think of to be positive about when speaking of this movie . . . unless it's the fact that the pajama clad target audience I saw this with was absolutely enthralled and the sound of their cute little voices blurting out "Pinky Pie!" in an awestruck tone was far better than anything about Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

My Little Pony does what it sets out to do for an adorable audience that is going to eat it up, and sue me if I can't be to cynical about that. The older the audience member, the less likely they will be to feel the magic (my 11-year old "Brony" nephew wasn't quite pulled in enough to get past his intense need to whine about how much popcorn we did not purchase), and it's hard to imagine full grown adults getting swept up in the "story", but no more so than it is with GI JOE or Transformers, and it's shorter and less obnoxious than any of those films.

Don't mess with Pinky Pie.
(Image Courtesy Lionsgate and Allspark Pictures)
I'm not saying this was a great film. The term "really good movie" might even seem a little strong. But as someone who still has treasured memories of watching The Care Bears Movie as a child, it's pretty easy for me to keep it in perspective. It's best suited to a bargain priced matinee, to be certain (you're going to need to save your money for the merchandise the kids will insist upon), but frankly, you're probably wasting movie-going money on guiltier pleasures than this for yourself.

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