[Screen It]

(2001) (voices of Veronica Taylor, Eric Stuart) (G)

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Children's Animated: After some mysterious Pokémon turn a young girl's imagination into reality, a young Pokémon trainer and his friends set out to rescue his mother who's been abducted and brainwashed by one of the girl's creations.
Professor Spencer Hale has been trying to uncover the secrets about a mysterious Pokémon known as the Unown that appear as twenty-six entities in the shape of the letters of the alphabet. Called to a recent discovery, Hale suddenly vanishes from the scene, leaving his young daughter, Molly, all alone in their expansive mansion.

Upset that her father has now disappeared just as her mother did two years ago, Molly is understandably distraught, and her strong emotions and tears activate the Unown that can read human minds and turn thoughts, dreams and desires into reality. Since she last equated her father to Entei, a leonine Pokémon that she read about from a storybook with him, that large creature suddenly appears and takes the place of her father, just as large crystalline structures encase the mansion, sealing Molly within her fantasy world.

With Molly desirous of having a mother as well, Entei leaves the mansion to find one, returning with Delia Ketchum, the mother of one of the most famous Pokémon trainers, Ash Ketchum. Seeing her abduction, Ash, his friends Misty and Brock, and their various Pokémon then set out to rescue Delia from her crystal prison, all while dealing with Molly who doesn't want her fantasy world disturbed, and Entei who will do anything to defend the girl and uphold her wishes.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
As my fellow critics joined me one Saturday morning for a press and promo screening of "Pokémon 3 The Movie," we discussed several things including if there's anything left to say about these films after the first two seemingly exhausted our use of synonyms for bad, and that our being present proved that people will see anything as long as it's free. Of course, it's our job to review movies so we had to be there, but the point was that we figured this inevitable sequel in the Pokémon film series couldn't be that different from its predecessors in either purpose or artistic quality. Guess what - we were right.

Just as was the case with the first two films, "Pokémon the First Movie" and "Pokémon the Movie 2000," the primary purpose of this picture is simply to introduce new Pokémon characters so that kids will want to rush out and buy the accompanying cards and thus keep the waning card collecting craze alive for at least a few more months. There's no doubt that will happen, but with the last sequel's gross of nearly $44 million considerably paling in comparison to that of the original (that made more than $85 million), this could be the last hurrah, at least for theatrical releases.

That's good news for critics and anyone else with any discernable taste, self-respect or knowledge of how good cartoons have been and can be, as this film emulates its predecessors in terms of subpar quality for its storytelling, artistic vision and overall entertainment value. If there's one thing to be said about the "original" Japanese productions (directed by Kunihiko Yuyama) and their American adaptations - written and directed by Michael Haigney and co-written by Norman Grossfeld - it's that they're consistent.

For the most part, the animation is equal (and occasionally inferior) to that of Saturday morning TV fare, the vocal work is flat, and the screenwriters have once again borrowed from sci-fi lore for the underlying plot. Whereas the first two films used Frankenstein and Godzilla as their inspiration, this one uses the sci-fi concept of mind readers and their ability to turn such thought into reality.

In that regard, the story actually possesses an inkling of potential, particularly considering its basis and existence in the animated world where most anything is possible. Unfortunately, the screenwriters weren't very imaginative in fleshing out the idea that's been used in any number of sci-fi films and TV shows such as the "Shore Leave" and "The Menagerie" episodes of the original "Star Trek" series.

Instead, all we really get from that standpoint is a mansion that becomes encased in ice crystals and a large Pokémon - natch - that a little girl imagines as her now vanished father. Beyond that, one of the series' regulars - a human boy - tries to rescue his kidnapped mother, while the obligatory Pokémon battles/contests/promotional & marketing pieces also take place, although the latter seem to be getting less screen time with each subsequent release.

Even so, there's little doubt about the film's true intentions (sell Pokémon cards) and while there's plenty of action and Pokémon related mayhem, the results are surprisingly inert and rather boring, at least for anyone who doesn't collect the related cards. For those who do, I suppose the film is passable, to some extent, for at least holding the target audience's attention, but that in no way means it's any good from an artistic sense. After all, those are the same kids who just a few years earlier got a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment out of playing with blocks of wood, that, not surprisingly, have about as much charm and intelligence as these films.

Preceded by another abominable and bizarre cartoon short - "Pikachu and Pichu" - that at least has a narrator this time around to explain what in the heck is occurring as it unfolds and pummels one's mind - the film might be a tad better than either of the two efforts, but that might be just an aftereffect of what has to be permanent brain damage from seeing these three films in just three years rather than an objective look at the offering. If these films continue to be released at this rate - and a character in the film mentions the next sequel -- the Pokémon movies will be right up there with taxes and visiting the dentist as less than thrilling annual occurrences.

Boring, trite and decidedly less than imaginative, this wolf in sheep's clothing is simply too obvious in its intention of snaring children and their money through a subpar film where quality takes the backseat to the marketing and promotion of its latest goods. "Pokémon 3 The Movie" rates as a 2 out of 10.

Reviewed March 31, 2001 / Posted April 6, 2001

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