[Screen It]

(2003) (voices of Veronica Taylor, Eric Stuart) (G)

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Children's Animated: Several Pokémon trainers try to stop two girls from kidnapping several powerful Pokémon and unleashing what could be a powerful weapon.
Pokémon trainers Ash, Brock and Misty have traveled to the canal city of Altomare for some Pokémon related games. There, they learn about the legendary Pokémon protectors of the city, Latios and Latias, that haven't been seen in a long while, but are reportedly able to take human form as well as turn invisible.

They're not the only ones interested in them, however. Annie and Oakley are thieves working for the unseen Giovanni who have been sent to capture the elusive Pokémon as well as steal the Soul Dew. It's a gem containing the spirit of another Pokémon that also protects the city, but could be used as a powerful weapon should it fall into the wrong hands.

Ash and his friends then meet Bianca and her grandfather Lorenzo who are the only two humans who have regular contact with Latios and Latias. When Annie and Oakley kidnap those two Pokémon and steal the Soul Dew, it's up to Ash, his Pokémon, Pikachu, and the others to thwart their diabolical plan and save the Pokémon.

OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
Unless they're purposefully designed from the get-go to fit together chronologically as a series, once sequels get past the third or fourth installment, there's really not much to say about them that hasn't already been stated before. There are a few exceptions to that rule. Yet, for the most part the higher the Roman numeral attached or associated with a film, the more likely it is to retread whatever material made the earlier films successful (and usually in an unimaginative and unmemorable fashion).

While "Pokémon Heroes" has followed most of its predecessors in forgoing the numerical naming, this is outing number five for those of you keeping count. I prefer the title "A Pokémon Too Far" or "Too Many Flew Over the Pokémon's Nest," but I suppose that might not make sense to the film's target audience, or what little is left of that.

In keeping with the downward box office death spiral, the last outing, "Pokémon 4Ever," didn't even manage to rack up $2 million at the box office (compared to more than $85 million for the first film back when the trading card game was at the height of its success). I can't imagine this offering do much better.

That's because the film offers little in the way of entertainment, novelty or creativity for its audience, let alone for whatever poor adult charges are unlucky enough to suffer through this. Compared to the Pixar films that are always brimming with material for viewers of all ages, the best this one can offer is introducing two new characters who go by the names of Annie and Oakley. Get it? It's almost as good as Jesse and James who make up two-thirds of Team Rocket (Yes, I realize I know far more than any rational adult should about such details).

With the American adaptation being written and directed by Jim Malone - based on the original script by Hideki Sonoda and direction by Kunihiko Yuyama - the film also offers two new Pokémon creatures that look like sleek red and blue jets yet sound like wounded dolphins. At one time, that would have created a mad rush to the stores to collect their respective playing cards. Now, it's likely to have most anyone within earshot rushing to the drugstore for aspirin and a pair of earplugs.

The element that made the first films (and card game) so popular - namely the pitting of Pokémon creatures in battle against each other in search of a victor - has been jettisoned this time in favor of straightforward fighting action. For better or worse (at this point it's hard to tell anymore), the change doesn't make much of a difference in terms of storytelling or engaging the viewer.

With the same vocal talent and weak combination of computer and hand-drawn animation, the film is about on par with the previous entries in the series. All of which means what little is left of the fan base might appreciate what's been offered, but everyone else will quickly overlook this instantly forgettable film. Just about as close to cinematic torture as one could imagine, the mercifully short "Pokémon Heroes" still feels like an eternity and thus rates as just a 1 out of 10.

Reviewed May 8, 2003 / Posted May 16, 2003

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