Monday, July 17, 2017

Hairspray (2007) (Movie Review)

    After nearly a decade and a half long hiatus, the early 2000’s marked a colossal return of the movie musical genera. Not only were theatrical musicals making money again, and receiving critical acclaim, but they were suddenly sweeping the Academy Awards, just like back in the Golden Age of Hollywood. 
We were also seeing a number of hit Broadway plays make the transition to the silver screen ... although with admittedly mixed results. Despite being a dynamite decade for movie musicals, there was always a lesser one for every quality hit. The 2007 comedy musical titled “Hairspray” had all the potential to be one of the lesser, bottom barrel offerings of its time ... and yet, with a gifted director, a firmly realized tone, a delightful ensemble cast, and it just hit the mark. “Hairspray” was one of the biggest breakout Summer movies of 2007, was a commercial success, one of the highest grossing musicals, and is fondly looked back on as one of the best movie musicals of the decade. At the time, I was just getting out of High-School, and I was neck-deep in both drama clubs and stage plays. So, this film was mandatory for me to check out. I remember liking it to the point where it surpassed my expectations, although I had no real desire to watch it a second time either. Well … I blinked, and the time passed. I can’t believe it’s already been ten years sense this movie first premiered, but I’m genuinely excited to give this one a second watch. Will it be even better then I remember, or just a pleasant diversion for its time … let’s find out.  

       The year is 1962, and 16-year-old heavyset High School Student Tracy Turnblad is obsessed with The Corny Collins Show. Along with her best friend Penny, the two want nothing more then to audition for an opening, and dance the night away on the biggest hit local Teen show. However, if she can fill the open spot, and if she’s lucky enough to get things her way … Tracy really wants nothing more than equal screen time from both the Caucasian and African American dancers. The cruel station manager is none too pleased with her ideals, or her figure, but fortunately for Tracy, the show’s star prodigy named Link can see past her weight. He see’s the charm, charisma she brings to her dancing … and although he’s afraid to admit it, shares her ideals. If Tracy can just win the blessing of her parent’s, and make a good impression on her co-stars, maybe she can change the show around for the better. I’ll be honest, as far as teen musicals go … this is absolutely one of the best. That’s not to say it’s one of my absolute favorites, as it’s not quiet on the same high-bar of “West Side Story”, but it’s certainly not the disposable piece of fluff I originally wrote it off as.

       The first thing this movie has going for it is an infectiously lovable cast, with each talent bringing a distinct charm and appeal to the film. 
Nikki Blonsky had the breakout role of a life-time as Tracy Turnblad, and boy howdy … did she ever hit it out of the park. Obviously, the role called for someone overweight, but the spirit, the charm, the innocents, and the passion she brought to this performance can’t be undermined. Ever sense I saw this performance, I wanted to see her in roles that didn’t require someone overweight, because she really has the gift and the talent. Michelle Pfeiffer likewise delivers a delightfully wicked performance as the up-tight station manager Velma, and her song number “Miss Baltimore Crabs” is one of the most enjoyable villain numbers the genera has to offer. Zac Efron was just coming off the high of his TV success, and was just making his transition into theatrical productions, so no doubt he was just a big, juicy peace of bait for role of love interest Link. Elijah Kelley however, is the supporting young talent who I felt really shined on screen, and was chalk full of both style and charisma. Brittany Snow was a great choice to play Tracy’s TV rival Amber, but I feel she was the one talent who got swallowed up by the larger than life performances of her fellow cast members. Again, she fits the role, but I wish she had more scenes to really chew the scenery, or at the very least leave more of a memorable impression. No comment needed for Queen Latifah, as she shines in just about every-thing she sings and appears in.

     I also have to give credit to James Marsden’s charismatic portrayal of the host Corny Collins. While James Marsden has an unfortunate reputation for playing second banana to other stars in movies, he really is a likable talent, and even in this supporting role, he really displays a lot of charm. This role was originally meant for his fellow “X-Men” co-star Hugh Jackman, making this a rare case in which Cyclops beat-out Wolverine for once. Amanda Bynes plays Tracy’s best friend Penny, and this was one of her very last movie roles before stepping away from acting. I must admit, after re-watching this film, I suddenly realized I genuinely missed seeing her in movies. Amanda Bynes was one of those young decade talents I grew-up watching in a number of movies, TV shows, and she was a warmly recognizable presence who always added that extra layer of charm and delight to the experience. This movie is no exception, as Amanda Bynes makes for a lovable best friend, and naturally lights up the screen with her signature cute personality.      

     Before I talk about the songs, lets first look at “Hairspray” as a comedy. 
Personally, I found myself smiling and lightly chuckling at the film, rather than any big knee-slappers, but sometimes that’s okay. The films comedic nature serves more to giving it’s 1960’s setting a personality all it’s own, lending to cartoony visuals, and imagery that wouldn’t have worked in a musical that felt grounded. There are still some quirky highlights, and the cast can be quite funny. John Travolta as Tracy’s mother is an inspired choice, and he infuses the film with a lot of amusement. Travolta is one of those talents who can either be on top of the world in one movie, or facing rock bottom in another, and I’m happy to say that this movie put John Travolta back on the high-ground. Aside from being genuinely charismatic, he actually has terrific chemistry with Nikki Blonsky … to the point where I’m genuinely convinced their mother and doubter. The only other larger then life screen presence who could match Travolta is Christopher Walken as the father. He’s one of the most unique talents out there, as his acting always feels out of this world, and you just can’t take your eyes off him. There’s an especially fun scene with him giving a tour of his shop to the nasty station manager, and being a superhero fan … I just loved seeing this little “Batman Returns” cast reunion between Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken. He’s also had experience as a dancer, which cares over into this film wonderfully. While the song “Timeless to me” is nothing too memorable on it’s own, it’s the sequence of him dancing with his John Travolta wife that makes for such an amusingly awkward highlight in the film. Yet, I find the funniest talent of the whole movie to be Allison Janney as Penney’s overly controlling and strict mother. I don’t know what it is about this character performance, but she just cracks me up every time she’s on screen … “You just wait till your father gets out of prison young lady”.        

     How are the songs, as those are what make or break a musical? While certainly not one of the all-time great song selections, just about every musical number fills me with energy, and just puts me in a good mood. 
Right from the opening “Good Morning Baltimore”, the personality of this musical just wins me over, and I feel hooked. I distinctly remember back in my teen-drama-class days, all the girls in my group loved singing “I Can Hear the Bells”, and it’s become something of a nostalgic number for me. Other songs like “Ladies Choice” and “Welcome to the 60’s” continue to carry the films upbeat style and mood. Surprisingly, it’s whenever the musical tries to go for either a romantic or emotional song that I find myself getting board, and those are typically the songs I look forward to in musicals. That’s not to say that either “I Know Where I’ve Been” or “Without Love” are bad in of themselves, there just not highlights that I look forward to. Ironically, I find the most disposable song to be “It’s Hairspray”, which is the song the play is named after. However, the big breakout song that can be viewed as the real theme is “You Can’t Stop the Beat”, which is easily my favorite number of the whole musical. This song is so catchy, and so infectiously cheerful, that even though I haven’t watched this movie in a decade, this song continued to stick with me for these years. 

    The film also looks great, with colorful set designs, and even though the whole 60’s look feels more like a back-lot replication, it still feels alive in its own fluffy way. 
However, despite the film’s cheerful nature and upbeat tone, it’s still not ashamed to address racial, social and general themes of indifference. While timeless for any generation, it’s something that’s really needed now. It also gives the film a welcome layer of substance, and keeps it just a head above being disposable entertainment. If I had any real reservations with the movie, it would be in its final act. While everything plays out the way you’d expect, it also feels rushed, almost like I’m missing important character bonding moments in favor of more entertaining musical numbers. Tracy at one point is accused of assaulting an officer, goes on the run, gets caught by her best friend’s nasty mother (who amusingly locks her in a nuclear fall-out shelter that’s been converted into a guest room), then both Tracy and her friend are immediately rescued, and a plan is quickly put into motion to get Tracy back on the show … and it all feels like it’s running on fast-forward. The climax is at least a good one, as all the characters get involved, the dancing is great, and I liked that the one cute African American girl won the crown as opposed to our female lead, as that would have been a pinch too predictable.       

    In the end, even if I don’t call “Hairspray” one of my absolute favorite musicals, it’s still hard not to like and have a fun time with. It’s bursting with energy, and it’s one of those movies that just invites you to have a good time. The themes and messages are also thoughtful enough to anchor the upbeat songs, which is always welcome. Just as long as you go in with a mind set for some goofy fun, and catchy songs … this musical will give you your fix, and leave you feeling all warm and smiling. I’m happy to say it’s held up over the years, it’s absolutely on the high ground of Teen Musicals, and I genuinely hope more people rediscover this one, because I found this a very satisfying experience to give a second chance.

I give the 2007 musical “Hairspray” … 4 stars out of 5.


My Top 15 favorite moments in the Harry Potter series

      Wow, I remember being in 4th grade when the first Harry Potter film came out and now the final film is here, ending an outstanding series that I feel privileged to have grown up with. So to celebrate I’m counting down my top 15 favorite moments from this amazing series. Now it’s not easy to select just 15 moments or even 100 for that matter because there are so many great moments in this series but I’ll do my best. So prep your brooms and get ready to launch into my top 15 favorite moments from the Harry Potter Series.
#15 Opening to Half Blood Prince 
 Of all the films in the sires, this one has my favorite opening , I love how it starts with the WB logo, we hear Bellatrix in the background, followed by flashes on the events from the last film. Then the title shows up with powerful music playing in the background and then we get awesome shots of the camera zooming through ales and crashing through walls. It’s almost like a theme park ride. Overall a great opening, too bad the rest of the film isn’t as exciting.  

#14 Harry and Herminie dance (from Deathly Hallows Part 1) 
 Of all the relations in this series, the one that always came off as the strongest to me was the true friend ship between Harry and Herminie and this little dance was simply the most joyful moment between the two.
#13 Spider attack (from Chamber of Secrets) 
 This whole movie was like a collection of adventure serials with Ron and Harry getting in one huge predicament after the next. But the most exciting moment for me was when they were trying to escape the dark forest from an army of killer spiders. It was intense, thrilling, and the last time we would see that awesome flying car.  
 #12 Dumbledore’s quick escape (from Order of the Phoenix) 
 This is just an awesome scene, Dumbledore is about to be taken away to prison but he makes a quick escape by grabbing onto the tail of the Phoenix and disappearing in a large, fiery eruption. What better way to end it then with this fun line, “You may not like him minister but you can’t deny, Dumbledore’s got style”, perfect.  
#11 Sky Battle (from Deathly Hallows Part 1) 
 Now this was a teat, what better way to get you excited for the adventure ahead than by starting the film with an awesome sky chase. Spells are being fired left and right, the stakes are higher than usual because more characters are involved and we get lots of on road vehicle destruction, awesome! 
#10 Harry and Lupin talk on the bridge (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 I don’t know what it is about this scene that I love so much but there’s something moving about it. It’s the first time we really see Harry have a simple heart to heart conversation with another teacher. There’s no life changing moral or anything but the setting is great, the background music is nice and soothing and Lupin’s words carry so much care and understanding towed Harry and his family that it makes for such an emotional little moment without anything being to overly dramatic, it’s all simple and pure.   
#9 Arriving at Hogwarts for the first time on boat (in the Sorcerer’s stone) 
 This was such a perfect first shot of Hogwarts castle, the music fits it perfectly and it’s such a memorable little moment that it’s actually on par with seeing the Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road for the first time from “The Wizard of Oz”.     
#8 The “Something Wicked this way Comes” quire (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 This small little musicale number is just awesome! The lyrics are great, the sound of the low drum in the background is perfect and it creates such a foreboding, yet lively atmosphere. I love how beautifully all the visuals and images match with the song. First we see a dark reflection of Harry’s face in a window, then it dissolves to a shot of horseless carriages ridding off in the rain and finally the interior of the great hall, fantastic!

#7 Dumbledore vs. Voldemort (from Order of the Phoenix) 
 The entire third act of this film is just one amazing action scene after the next with all the characters trying to escape the ministry. What better way to end everything then an amazing one on one wizard dual between Voldermort and Dumbledore. I could have filled this list entirely with scenes from this battle, but if I had to choose one action moment it would be this dual. It’s not just a collision of spells, there are all kinds of energy elements that are being used, like water, a fire snake, shattered glass,  shadow energy, it’s just an amazing dual.
#6 The Tail of the Peverell Brothers (from Deathly Hollows Part 1) 
 None of the previous films ever gave use anything like this awesome story. This was so unique, the visuals and animation were strange yet so fascinating at the same time. I love the whole mood, atmosphere, its terrific ways of making transitions and Emma Watsons narration was so cryptic that it brought everything to life perfectly. 
#5 Every single Quidditch match from the series 
 I couldn’t pick one individual Quidditch match, there all outstanding. The first time seeing a Quidditch match in the first film was simply amazing, I had never seen anything like it before. The second film just built on top of it by having Harry compete against Draco and get chased by that rouge bludger. The third film was much darker and more haunting, the rain is falling on them, the grim (creepy dog omen of death) appears in the sky and Harry is chased be death eaters. Bottom line, whenever I watch a Harry Potter film, always look forward to the Quidditch matches.      
#4 The PETRONAS charm (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 It was such a spectacle to see Harry find the strength within himself to conjure a massive PETRONAS shock wave that takes out an army of death eaters. The music, the visuals, the sensation of this whole scene was simply riveting.
 #3 Flying Buck Beak (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 I absolutely love atmospheric flights in films and this is when I first discovered how effective they are. I love all the different shots of the castle and landscape and how it all matched perfectly with the stunning music in this scene. It almost feels meditative and it fully allows you to take in all the atmosphere and genius that the film has to offer.

#2 The ending to Chamber of secrets 
 This is something that I can only describe as the best feel good moment of the entire series. There couldn’t have been a more satisfying ending then seeing the great hall in thunderous applause, we get one final shot of every main character (including one last great shot of Richard Harris as Dumbledore), the camera backs out a window, we get an amazing final shot of the castle, all matched with some great music and it always leaves me with such a powerful and satisfying feeling, like this is the perfect way to end a film.      
#1 The possession scene (from Order of the Phoenix) 

 This scene is just epic and it’s one of the most powerful moments I ever experienced in the cinema. Harry is being torn apart by Voldermort and we get a lot of creepy images and negative flashbacks from the previous films, (which is really cool, how often does a character flashback on events from past films). Then from looking at his friends he remembers why he has strength over Voldermort, he’ll never no love or friendship the way Harry does and then in his last breath he looks at his enemy and says “I feel sorry for you”. This is why we love this character, he’s a hero who looks at his enemy, not with hate but with sorrow that he’ll never know what it’s like to be loved. He then defeats his enemy by bringing up all positive thoughts about the times he’s had with his loved ones. The music in this scene is stunning, the images are right on, and the emotion in this scene is the highest that have ever come from this series and that’s why it stands as my favorite moment from all the Harry Potter films.
Will the last film have a scene that can top this, well find out, when I review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2.  

Pokémon The Movie 2000 (1999) (Movie Review)

      20 YEARS ... that’s how old Pokémon is, in fact 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the franchise, and it kind of makes me feel old. I’m three years out of college but I remember being in 2nd grade when Pokémon first erupted in our pop culture, and left a huge impact on many kids between the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Yet somehow, it’s slowly becoming popular again, and I’m quite impressed that it’s lasted for twenty years. Now I grew up with Pokémon when the series was in its prime. My friends and I played all the original Nintendo games, we collected the cards, and of course we watched the cartoon show. Having said all that, I wouldn’t call myself a “fan”, because it’s not something that’s stuck with me over the years. Most Anime I watch or re-watch now like “Cowboy Bebop” and “Death Note” are aimed at the adult democratic, but there are some exceptions as I still adore “Cardcaptor Sakura”. I’ve tried re-watching some episodes from the old Pokémon cartoon, and personally I couldn’t stand it. Even when I was a kid, I only got into Pokémon because it was popular, and my friends liked it.
I did however watch the more recent “Pokémon XYZ” series, and that show was surprisingly good. It had terrific characters, it had good morals, and I suddenly found myself wishing that I grew up with that series over the original. I’ll admit, after watching the newer “XYZ” show, it did rekindle the flames of nostalgia burred within me, not for the old TV show itself but for some of the movies adapted from the cartoon. There were in fact five theatrical animated Pokémon movies based on the original cartoon, and I remember genuinely liking these films as a kid (with the exception of the first movie, I thought that was awful, even as kid). The one movie that I remember watching and loving the most was the second theatrical film titled “Pokémon The Movie 2000”. In fact, there was a time in which I held this film alongside “Toy Story 2” as one of my personal favorite animated movies ever. So, in light of the franchises 20 year anniversary, I think it’ll be fun to review the one film in the series that I still have some child hood nostalgia reserved for.

     This movie is set during the second season of the original series, and at this time the shows main hero’s are traveling through a series of islands, four of which will be the center point of this story. Things are set in motion when a new villain simply called The Collector launches multiple attacks on the homes of three legendary giant birds, who individually harness the elements of fire, ice-water, and lighting. His goal is to use these titan birds as a means to bait out an even stronger creature from the sea, and claim it as his prize. What the collector failed to realize is that the three birds are more than just creatures with special powers, they are in fact connected to nature itself, and by disrupting their peace, it throws all the elements of nature out of balance. Soon a global super storm is born from this imbalance in power, and it’s threatening to flood the entire planet. It doesn’t take long for our main group from the TV show to get caught in the mess. After washing up on an island, our hero’s learn from the local inhabitance that the super storm is in fact part of an enchant prophecy that’s coming to fruition. Our hero’s are then sent on a quest to retrieve three sacred items from the homes of the three titan birds, which when gathered at the main islands sacred shrine during a ritual will set nature back into harmony. Thus, the adventure is on, the stakes are higher than ever before, and both new friends and creatures are met along the journey.

      Before I get into the details, lets first talk about the characters, both held over from the series and the new ones created for the movie. The little electric hamster Pikachu of course is present, he’s one of the most famous cartoon/video game characters ever, and surprisingly he doesn’t do much in this film.
Seriously, despite being the franchises most marketable icon, I keep forgetting how little he ever dose. Now back when I was a kid watching this show, I only found the cute little pocket monsters appealing, but I didn’t care about any of the main hero’s. Needless to say, I didn’t like a single human character from this show until the “XYZ” series came out 18 years later. That series had such a strong cast of characters, and it just makes me sad that they weren’t present from the beginning. Obviously I’m aware that long time Pokémon fans really do like these original characters, and I hate to step on any toes, but I also can’t lie about my personal opinion. With that said ... I couldn’t stand this original cast of characters. We all recognize Satoshi as the shows main character, as his signature red cap and blue attire are about as recognizable as Super Mario’s design.
This character could have passed for a cool young-hero, but his lack of personality mixed with his ever annoying ego and reckless decisions really held him back. Now to this movies credit, it’s trying to make Satoshi more compelling, and I like that he’s not the lead character by default, the story dose in fact revolve largely around his journey. Unfortunately, despite this film’s best efforts, it still can’t make this kid an interesting or compelling protagonist, and worse yet is that he get’s branded as “The Chosen One” ... oh boy, I’ll talk about that title later in my review. Now I do want to give some serious credit to voice actress Rica Matsumoto, who, ever sense the shows inception has been consistent supplying the voice of Satoshi in the Japanese dub. Not only does her voice fit the character perfectly, but she can be highlighted along with vocal talents like Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) as an icon for sticking with a character over all these years. Unfortunately for me, I had to grow up with the English dub, and at this point in the series Satoshi was voiced by Veronica Taylor. Now I’m sure she’s a wonderful person, probably a great talent in many respects, in fact she also supplies the voice of Satoshi’s mother in the English dub, so she’s got vocal range. Despite that, I personally couldn’t stand the voice she gave to Satoshi in the English dub. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s just something about that voice mixed with that characters attitude that came off as ear-poisoning to me.

      The only character who could possibly make my ears bleed more is the obnoxious annoying red head girl named Kasumi. Again, I know this character has a large fan base, and I’m sure a more devoted fan could point out some of her merits (if she even has any), but I honestly hated everything about this character.
I hated her stuck up attitude, I hated how whinny she acted, and she just felt like a stick in the mud that never contributed anything to the group. Now for the sake of this movie, it’s once again trying to make this character more interesting by giving her a little story arc in which she finally confesses her feelings for our main hero. Kasumi even contributes by rescuing Satoshi from drowning, which is fine, but there’s never any payoff between these two. Now sense I mentioned the “XYZ” series earlier, I should probably throw this out really quickly ... Serena, obviously I think she’s the better girl friend. There isn’t even a competition, Kasumi doesn’t hold a match stick to Serena, who has a heart of gold by comparison ... there I said it, let’s move on.
Rounding up our hero’s is “extra friend”, who I honestly don’t recognize from the show. I’m sure he has a name too, but in this film he does little else then fill-up space, so why should I bother to give him any more attention than the movie did. The English version changed a lot of the dialogue around, in some cases it was for the better, while other times it was for the sole excuse of putting in some rather silly one-liners and self-referential hummer. There's at least three scenes in which characters brake the forth wall by addressing that their in a movie, most of which are provided by those annoying evil henchman that are dragged along for every step of the adventure. I actually forgot all about those three clowns, and while I could again give the writers some credit from making them helpful to the cause, I would have preferred if they were removed from the film all together. 

       Now with all the hold-over characters from the show addressed, lets shift our attention to the new characters that are only present for this movie.
The first new character to take note of is a local island girl named Melody, who represents the culture of the films setting, actively aids our hero’s, has a great deal more personality then any of them, and is subsequently more interesting. While Satoshi has a journey and goal to reach in the film, Melody actually as a more interesting character arc. This is a girl who was raised by a culture, but fell out of it when she reached a certain age, and became more interested in modern appeals and fashions. As she joins our hero’s on their quest, she begins to grow closer to the heritage she left behind, and by the end we see that she rediscovers her old beliefs, and becomes one with her lineage again.
Everything about her story is conveyed through visual storytelling, we can see all the changes in her character happen on screen with nothing internal explained verbally through dialogue, and I absolutely love that. In fact, I honestly wish she was the movies main character or even “Chosen One” from the beginning, with the cast from the show firmly supporting her story. If that was the case, I actually think we would have had a better movie on our hands. The sinister Collector leaves much to be desired from an antagonist, as his motives are paper thin and he doesn't even interact with our hero's that often. Still, he makes for a decent new human villain with some pros. Despite his simplistic motives, he seems to have a certain class and intelligence. Also, some of his dialogue (at least in the English version) may suggest that he views himself as his own “Chosen One” with a great destiny to fulfill, which is a nice contrast to our main hero. The new creatures in the film are obviously there to promote new trading cards, but they all serve the story in some way, which is better than nothing. Of course the most marked creature is the giant sea beast called Lugia, who aims to bring peace between the three ravage titan birds. He actually makes for a cool mystic creature, but aside from occasionally flying Satoshi to the different islands, and doesn’t do that much in the grand scheme of things.

       Actually, the Pokémon are mostly side lined in favor of the human characters, and the more typical battles are replaced with more focus on adventure excitement. As addressed in the plot synopses, “Pokémon The Movie 2000” is more quest based, with our hero’s out scavenging mystic items, and their always on the run, which helps expand the location. In my opinion, this was a huge improvement over the first attempt at a theatrical Pokémon film, because that movie kept everything in one single, boring location the whole time, and was just an onslaught of fighting.
Making this sequel more of an adventure with high stakes was in general a very smart move, but unfortunately there isn’t enough variety to the films excitement. Most of what we see is characters sailing boats in bad weather, or running around on foot in the snow, and it gets kind of tired after a while. If you want to see a near perfect Anime adventure movie, with a great deal of variety and excitement, watch Hayao Miyazaki’s 1986 masterpiece “Castle in the Sky”, because that film gets it right. Now there are some genuinely adventurous highlights spread throughout, the most notable being a chase in the snow which involves a jet propelled safety raft and giant creatures in flight overhead. Now while I like the overall set-up, I do wish the film could have taken a step back from the high stake adventure and devoted a little more time to exploring both the mythos and the culture of the setting itself. From what the film provides, this seems like an interesting location, with an ancient lineage, and a culture that’s an amalgamation of various different cultures in our own world.

       Now the movie does have some quiet moments that allow the audiences to be more submersed in the setting. In fact both the soundtrack and the visuals of the changing weather do help give the movie some atmosphere. However, while those select scenes and elements are very good, their only lightly sprinkled throughout all the disastrous mayhem. The animation on display is definitely an improvement over the smaller scaled TV show, and there’s some great visual highlights.
Although realistically, if you were to compare the animation of this film with virtually any one of Hayao Miyazaki’s or heck any Anime in general, then this will look kind of choppy by comparison. I think the film gets a little too reliant on having CGI effects over shadow the traditional hand-drawn brush strokes. Having said that, I do still love the design of the villains flying fortress, and it dose still convey a sense of looming dread when it’s on screen. Back when I was a kid, CGI was still very new for me, and there was one select moment that I distinctly remember re-winding a lot. It’s a shot in the opening that starts with a close-up of the villain, which then pulls back into a wide shot of his flying castle, and I remember just thinking that was the most epic thing ever. I also re-wound that opening title card a lot too, as the visuals and music were just so cool back then. With that said, some of the effects haven’t aged well, and I remember the flying sequences looking cooler than this. I guess after so much exposure to films like “How to Train Your Dragon”, “Avatar” and the “Harry Potter” movies, I have a much higher standard on how to judge a really cool flight scene. Heck, even older movies like Disney’s “The Rescuers Down Under” mastered the simulation of an animated flight better than this film. 

        Now I said in the opening that I watched this movie all the time as a kid, but truthfully, I haven’t re-watched this film in years, until I had to before I posted this review. Through all those years, I’ve never forgotten this films instrumental music score composed by Ralph Schuckett. Needless to say, the music he composed for this film ... a thing of beauty! This is one case in which the American version of the film is superior to its Japanese counterpart. I don’t mean to put down the original score composed by Shinji Miyazaki, because that score was good too, but it just didn’t stick with me the same way Ralph Schuckett’s score has.
There’s one specific track titled “The Guardian’s Song”, and it’s personally one of my favorite music tracks from any Anime I’ve ever seen. The American soundtrack also has some select songs that are also worth taking note of. There’s the song titled “The Power of One”, which is performed by the late Donna Summer, and honestly, its way too impressive for this movies own good. It’s a song that belongs in one of those films that’s tailor-made to bait the Academy Awards. Seriously, if this song had come from any other film that year, it probably would have gotten an Oscar nod for best original song, and in my opinion it should have.
This song is so good that Herman Cain, a former Republican candidate for President of the United States, actually quoted lyrics during his campaign, not realizing where the song originally came from. When he announced the suspension of his presidential campaign, he quoted the lyrics again, but this time acknowledging that they were from a song featured in a Pokémon movie. Also, rest in peace Donna Summer, she really was an incredible talent, and the Queen of Jazz as she was sometimes called. Next is the song “Flying Without Wings” performed by Westlife. This one definitely comes off like the product of a late 90’s boy band, but I can’t help liking this song too, mostly for innocent nostalgic reasons. Then of course there’s that cheesy, catchy Pokémon theme song that’s heard during the opening credits, which is silly, but a nice up-date of the version herd from the TV show.  ... How is it that for both this movie review and my last review of “The Transformers: The movie” I’ve given nothing but praise to their respected soundtracks? I guess the message to take from this is that animated movies adapted from successful long running cartoon shows will always have a soundtrack that’s better than it’s worth. Ironically, both soundtracks for “The Transformers: The Movie” and “Pokémon The Movie 2000” have songs performed by Weird Al Yankovic, although his Pokémon Countdown song is a step back from “Dare to be Stupid”.

      One thing that Pokémon always seemed to struggle with was getting the moral across to kids. Sometimes this series would beat you over the head with its message, and others times it was subtle to a fault, where you just don’t give the message any attention. In this movie the message is all about how any one-person can make a difference if he or she has the courage to commit to something greater then themselves.
Not a bad moral, but it clashes with our hero Satoshi being branded as “The Chosen One” ... as he didn’t get to make a choice himself, instead destiny just forced him to make a difference. In general, I’ve always hated when characters are proclaimed as “Chosen Ones”, but this films even worse as there’s not even a clear reason as to why “he” specifically is a “Chosen One”. Oh wait, the creators have a reason ... he’s the main character of the series, and this is the films attempt to make him more significant. So the screen writers took the clichéd “Chosen One” concept and ran with it ... right into border line biblical territory with it. I’m sure this wasn’t intentional, but at the start of the films third act, we see our “Chosen One” take a lone journey that figuratively parallels “The Stations of the Cross”. It’s not a blatant cut and pace (this movie would never aim for that), but I did take note of some similarities.
While this “Chosen One” doesn’t carry a cross, he does still carry the metaphorical “wait of the world” on his shoulder during his trek. Someone from the sidelines eventually comes over to aid our hero, or in other words “help carry that wait”. He also stumbles and falls three times during his quest, no joke, I actually counted him falling three times, but to be fair, one of his falls was the result of a giant bird crashing into the ocean. There’s also a moment when he eventually meets his terry eyed mother, not “grieving”, but close. Then his journey finally comes to an end at the top of a hill where three sacred items, in other words “a trinity” come together as “one”, which ushers in a new stage of harmony and balance to the world, and life in general. There’s even a moment when it looks like our hero died, but he comes back, and finally there’s a celebration in which he takes to the skies (while riding a giant bird of course, he didn’t actually ascend himself). Am I reading to deep into this ... of course I am, but still as far as thematic chosen ones go, I think the writers flew closer to the sun with this then they realized. Then again, on the ceiling of the villains floating castle is a renaissance painting with several angles in flight, so there is in fact religious imagery within the film. Also, when the flooding finally stops, there's this colorful arch appearing in the sky, which absolutely makes me think of God using the rainbow as a promise that the world will never suffer from a global flood again.

      One little detail I really love from Anime in general is that, while many of their animated films can end abruptly, we still see the continuing animated sequences with the characters while the credits roll.
Other Anime movies like “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “The Secret World of Arrietty” and “Kiki's Delivery Service” all did it, and I was genuinely pleased to re-discover that “Pokémon The Movie 2000” did it too. There’s just something satisfying about seeing the various characters continue on their journeys even though the film has ended. When all is said and done, “Pokémon The Movie 2000” obviously doesn’t represent quality film-making, but I do feel that a lot of effort was put into this movie. I felt that the writers were genuinely trying to make this something special, and more than something that could have just passed as an episode with a bigger budget. I actually think that the film offered more than expected, including some decent animation and an absolutely breath-taking music score.
There were even some little details that really took me back to my child hood, like seeing the Kids WB logo flash in front of the screen in the opening, or the purple scaled King Cobra Snake called Arbok, as that was actually the name I gave to my pet corn snake, back when I was in third grade. I would only recommend this film to long time fans of the series, and to be fair, that’s what it’s aimed for. Nostalgia aside, I know this isn’t a good movie by any means, and there are obviously better Anime films out there for kids to grow up with like “Spirited Away” and so forth. Having said that, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this specific Pokémon movie on some level either, in fact I honestly kind of adore it. Not a great film, but a harmlessly derivative adventure, and a memorable little trinket from my child hood.

I give “Pokémon The Movie 2000” ... 3 stars out of 5.