[box cover]

The Powerpuff Girls Movie

The first adventure of those butt-kicking kindergarten crime fighters (voiced by Catherine Cavadini, Tara Strong, and Elizabeth Daily) is chronicled in The Powerpuff Girls Movie, a superhero "origin tale" that's miles ahead of most of its live-action brethren. As an art-school student, creator Craig McCracken — who got his start on Cartoon Network's excellent "Dexter's Laboratory" — said he wanted to do a superhero cartoon but didn't want to build it around the usual muscle-bound, man-of-steel hero type. So, with a nod toward the "big eyes, tiny mouth" school of Japanese character design, McCracken came up with a trio of little girls whose mission is "saving the world before bedtime." As the story goes, the three were the brainchild of Professor Utonium (Tom Kane), who just wanted to concoct perfect little girls from a mixture of "sugar, spice, and everything nice." But the experiment goes hideously awry due to the hijinks of the professor's simian lab assistant, Jojo (Roger L. Jackson), who knocks a beaker of Chemical X into the mix. Despite their weird appearance and freakish superpowers, the Professor finds the girls adorable and names them: Blossom (because of her open nature), Bubbles (because of her bubbly personality), and Buttercup (because, um, it also starts with B). After their first day at Pokey Oaks Kindergarten goes poorly — introduced to the game of "tag," the trio fly at light speed through Townsville, giddily destroying everything in their path — the girls are labeled "bug-eyed freaks" by the town. Then they're tricked by monkey Jojo (now Mojo Jojo, an evil supermonkey mutated by his own exposure to Chemical X) into assisting him with his "Help-the-Town-and-Make-It-a-Better-Place Machine." But soon they discover Mojo Jojo's evil intentions — and have to save Townsville from the havoc they've helped to create.

*          *          *

The Powerpuff Girls Movie is a smart, often hilarious introduction for those who may not have caught the cartoon before; for fans of the show, the bigger budget has allowed McCracken and crew to indulge in amazing animation that wasn't previously possible given the restrictions of half-hour television. The tag sequence alone is so lengthy and detailed — with a combination of 3-D and conventional animation — that it could stand alone as a short. It's a side-splittingly funny film with brilliant art direction that never condescends to the viewer — if only every so-called "family friendly" film was this entertaining. Warner Home Video and Cartoon Network present the film in standard, full-screen format with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English, French, or Spanish). The film is bright and very clean, and the audio is superb. On board is a commentary track by creator/director McCracken and art director Mike Moon; the two seem to get a kick out of chatting about how hard (or how easy) the various scenes were to animate, and they laugh over the effects they created that sometimes ended up used in completely different scenes. McCracken also points out in-jokes and references that might escape the casual viewer — the opening scene with the Professor in the supermarket, for example, is a nod to The Big Lebowski. A menu of "character commentaries" offers selected scenes with Blossom, Buttercup, Bubbles, Mojo Jojo, or the Mayor providing commentary; the funniest by far is by Mojo, who offers remarks like "Look how good I look in my new helmet — like a monkey gladiator!" Four deleted scenes are provided, all of which were wisely excised (although one, with citizens running in panic from flying, spitting monkeys, is a lot of fun); a four-minute "Behind the Scenes" promo originally made for the Cartoon Network offers soundbites from McCracken and the vocal talent; an early test sequence features the girls beating the crap out of Mojo Jojo — the scene is also presented with commentary by the Mayor, who asks, "Now, why do bad guys like skylights so much? That, and secret islands — it's always one of those." A "cast interviews" menu is a clever spoof of junket-style sit-downs, with each of the main characters doing the Q-&-A bit for the press. Also included is the very funny, "Ren & Stimpy"-inspired "Dexter's Laboratory" cartoon "Chicken Scratch," which preceded the movie during its theatrical run. In the short, Dexter gets chicken pox and his sister DeeDee tells him that if he scratches he'll turn into a chicken, so Dexter goes to his usual insane lengths to avoid scratching. The disc also includes "sneak peek" promo of Cartoon Network products and DVD-ROM content. Snap-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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