By now, most everyone is familiar with the old saying about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. While that might be true on many levels, when it comes to business, imitation is often the simplest and easiest way to make a quick buck. Whether it's copying a company or individual's business strategy, product or even name, many businesses hope to capitalize on the success of others by replicating or, at most, marginally modifying whatever previously turned a profit.
The great moviemaking machine collectively known as Hollywood is no stranger to that practice. When "Star Wars" broke out and onto the mainstream scene, the other studios pumped out their own sci-fi films hoping to ride that film's coattails to success. After "Lethal Weapon" reinvigorated the buddy cop flick, we were inundated with similar films. Even Quentin Tarantino's success with "Pulp Fiction" lead to a horde of poorly made, copycat wannabes.
It's obvious that the copiers are far more concerned with financial potential than with quality, and that's particularly evident in this week's release of "Digimon: The Movie." If the "mon" part of that title sounds familiar, that's because this film and the 2-year-old TV series it's based on are a rip-off of the once popular "Pokémon" films and TV program.
In fact, if the first Pokémon film hasn't surprised the industry with its $85 million domestic box office take, it's highly unlikely that this Americanized anime film ever would have made it to the theaters (and that's before this year's Pokémon sequel proved the waning of its popularity by only grossing 50% of the original's take).
Of course, some have argued that Pokémon actually copied Digimon, as the latter allegedly existed as a Japanese game/toy prior to the former. While I can neither confirm nor deny such allegations and claims, I have two things to say about that. Unless you're an executive for the companies responsible for either franchise, who cares which came first? Now go out and get a life.
Secondly, if you're an executive who copied the original, shame on you. Do we really need another such lousy cartoon? I'm sorry, but it's highly unlikely that few will argue with the point that more than one such "mon" game, TV show or movie is one too many.
That's because just like the Pokémon films that preceded it, this Digimon picture - so named for the DIGital rather than Pocket MONsters that populate it -is a sloppily made film, filled with an incoherent plotline that only a free-associating child could appreciate or understand. Then there are the poorly defined characters that are neither interesting nor engaging, sloppy English dubbing (the type where Japanese characters don't speak with Japanese accents) and often crude and wildly varying animation that would be laughable if it wasn't so inexcusable.
Adapted and re-written for English audiences by Bob Buchholz and Jeff Nimoy (both making their feature film debuts), the film at least offers "newbies" the chance to get up to speed with the basic proceedings without necessarily boring the established fan base. From that point on, however, the story - while not terribly complicated in its basic underlying structure (kids and their Digimon battle bad Digimon) - unfolds in a hyperkinetic and disjointed and episodic fashion, with characters and plot points appearing and disappearing without any discernible rhyme or reason.
It's all apparently designed for the stereotypical preteen with a short attention span. While that may make for a fun time for that target audience, it will certainly be cinematic torture for everyone else. To make matters worse, when it appears that the film is done after the good guys defeat the bad monster, it suddenly starts up again with another loosely related plot and more mayhem. Just like a carnival ride that teases riders with a stop before revving up once more, this film and that particular moment are certain to induce cinematic nausea.
If that weren't bad enough, the film also earns the distinction of having the most blatant product endorsements this side of "Wayne's World" where the characters played by Dana Carvey and Mike Myers purposefully flaunt and hawk certain products in a clever, spoof-filled moment. Here, viewers are "treated" to billboards for Mazda and Northwest/KLM, including another moment where one animated character "unknowingly" runs his hand along such an ad, just like a product displaying model on "The Price is Right."
Despite the seemingly requisite amount and inclusion of monster mayhem, American rock/pop songs and at least an attempt at adding some humor into the proceedings - one of the character's mothers constantly offers weird food to the kids such as potato juice and beef jerky shakes - the film simply doesn't work on any artistic level, although it's possible that fans of the TV series and card/toy craze may enjoy it.
Even so, the filmmakers - from both the Japanese and American camps -- should be chastised for their choice of copied material. That's because if one's going to rip off something else, they should at least make sure that the original product is good since the quality of the duplicate rarely matches that of the original. As such, if you copy an excellent film, you might end up with a good one. However, when you copy a film or idea that's bad or awful from the start - such as the Pokémon films - you're likely to end up with nothing more than useless dreck. That's certainly the case with "Digimon: The Movie" that earns a rating of just 1 out of 10.