[Screen It]

(2017) (voices of Tara Strong, Emily Blunt) (PG)

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Animated Adventure: A sextet of talking ponies elude capture by an evil pony and leave their land in hopes of finding help to defeat her and her master.
A celebration is about to take place in Ponyville, with Twilight Sparkle (voice of TARA STRONG), the pony Princess of Friendship, in charge of the festivities, with her loyal assistant, Spike the Dragon (voice of CATHY WESELUCK), at her side. But invaders then disrupt the event as the broken-horned Tempest Shadow (voice of EMILY BLUNT) arrives with her assistant, Grubber (voice of MICHAEL PEŅA), and other goons.

They work for The Storm King (voice of LIEV SCHREIBER) who wants to get his hands on the magic possessed by Twilight Sparkle and three other pony princesses. They manage to capture those other three, but Twilight Sparkle, along with the rest of the Mane 6 -- Applejack (voice of ASHLEIGH BALL), Rainbow Dash (voice of ASHLEIGH BALL), Pinkie Pie (voice of ASHLEIGH LIBMAN), Fluttershy (voice of ASHLEIGH LIBMAN) and Rarity (voice of TABITHA ST. GERMAIN) -- manage to escape, with them last mishearing the instructions that they should find the "hippo queen" for help.

The six ponies then embark on a journey out of Equestria where they meet a variety of characters along the way whose motives come into question. There's Capper (voice of TAYE DIGGS), a street cat who's in debt and seemingly helps the ponies but does so only in hopes of selling them to the highest bidder. There's also Captain Celaeno (voice of ZOE SALDANA), and her ragtag group of birds who now work making deliveries for The Storm King, but were once pirates of the sky.

And finally there's Princess Skystar (voice of KRISTIN CHENOWETH), a pony who now lives under the sea with her mother, Queen Novo (voice of UZO ADUBA), thanks to a magic pearl that's transformed them and kept them and their kind hidden from The Storm King. With Tempest Shadow and her goons hot on their trail, Twilight Sparkle and her friends try to elude them and get help for those back in Equestria.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Considering that movie studios are increasingly desperate to attract as many viewers as possible to their latest offerings, you would think they would make movies that equally appeal to all viewing quadrants. After all, why limit yourself if you deliver something that appeals to children, teens, and male and female adults and seniors?

Some films, such as "Star Wars" manage to do that and then some, and rake in beaucoup amounts of box office dollars. But many studios, still beholden to the now antiquated belief that they must appeal mostly to young male viewers, are afraid to make films that fall into the G and PG ratings.

Accordingly, the "appeal to all quadrants" offerings are mostly left up to the genre of animated films. When done right, such movies manage to pull in viewers outside of the more obviously targeted kid range and play just as well to older moviegoers. Most of the offerings from Pixar manage to do that, while other animation studios occasionally manage to hit one out of the park in similar ways.

With that in mind, I have a hard time believing that "My Little Pony: The Movie" is going to play very far beyond the target audience of young girls who love the source material (notwithstanding the fairly unusual cult of so-called "bronies" -- adult male fans of this franchise, who even had a 2012 documentary made about them).

Not having had any girls as a parent, I came into this screening fairly oblivious to the franchise, outside of having seen the trailers for the film, and some past exposure that I simply blew off, easily forgot, or was subjected to some sort of "Men in Black" memory eraser to wipe such visions of colorful ponies and other such critters from my head.

That said, I went in with as open a mind as possible, although I was originally more preoccupied and concerned that any parents at the screening might be viewing this childless, 53-year-old man with a notebook in hand with a great deal of mistrust and suspicion.

But when the lights went down and I disappeared into the darkness, I sat back and wondered if this film would work on any level for anyone who is not a young child or a bronie. Or would I be in store for the second coming of the absolute horror of seeing something along the lines of "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure?" After sitting through the overly long, 100 or minutes of this offering, I can say it's not as bad as I feared.

Yes, the hand-drawn animation is wildly uneven (sometimes decent and at others it's equal to or even subpar to what animated TV shows feature), but the story is serviceable and some of the musical numbers (yes, at times it turns into a musical, with around six songs if one doesn't include the concluding Sia number) aren't bad. None of it's anywhere near Pixar quality or the best of the Disney animated musicals, but it's not of the gouge your eyes out, run screaming from the theater experience I was expecting.

It's certainly not going to draw much beyond the child audience (notwithstanding the small number of adult fans), but it's passable enough entertainment for kids and any adults who may be in tow or just there to revel in all of "My Little Pony: The Movie's" brightly colored shenanigans. It rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed October 5, 2017 / Posted October 6, 2017

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