Rated G - Running Time: 1:33 - Released 4/6/01

Having endured three Pokémon features in as many years, I wish to be first to offer the naive but fervent hope that the story is a trilogy. That our beloved youth are willing, even eager, to sit through any type of cartoon animated dreck that shows up in cineplexes is irritating enough, but the unmitigated inanity of the Japanese Animé-descended Pokémon franchise seems almost like a cruel joke, as if its Asian originators are sitting back and laughing at us helpless Occidentals and our low-scoring, video-game-addicted children. I wonder if they force-feed this stuff to their own kids.

Like its two feature-length predecessors (1999's Pokémon: The First Movie and Pokémon: The Movie 2000), the unimaginatively titled Pokémon 3: The Movie (English version) is written and directed by Michael Haigney with writing assistance from Norman J. Grossfeld, both of whom have fashioned their careers solely out of translating and transforming Kunihiko Yuyama's Pokémon products into a highly salable Western phenomenon. It begins with a short called Pikachu & Pichu in which various Pokémon get together to play, say their names, and annoy adult audience members. The feature, subtitled Spell Of The Unown (sic), revolves around an ancient legend in which an alphabet of mystical Pokémon symbols control the fate of characters by swirling around in different configurations and chanting, "unknown" over and over. When the symbols are discovered in an old mansion by professor Spencer Hale, he disappears into a magical dream world created in the mind of his young daughter Molly (voice of Amy Birnbaum) and becomes a lion-like creature called Entei (Ken Gates). Molly soon finds the letters and is whisked off into the colorful world herself, reveling in her new relationship with Entei, whom she calls "Papa" and whose sole purpose seems to be nothing other than granting her every wish. Molly's make-believe world grows out of the mansion itself, covering it in a cristalline, ice-blue shell which spreads to the surrounding fields and trees not unlike the "blueness" in Yellow Submarine.

Local Pokémon enthusiasts Ash (Veronica Taylor), Brock (Eric Stuart), Misty (Rachael Lillis), and Pikachu (Ikue Ootani) watch with helpless consternation as the mansion becomes an impenetrable ice castle, but when Ash's mother Delia (also Taylor) is kidnapped by Entei and taken inside at Molly's order, the teens decide to throw caution aside and rescue her. In accordance with established Pokémon guidelines, they are followed by the egotistical but comically accident-prone Team Rocket, consisting of James (Stuart), Jessie (Lillis), and their Pokémon friend Meowth (Addie Blaustein). A melee ensues.

This film is followable, if not particularly engaging, and it's certainly colorful, rendering Molly's dream world in a rainbow of kaleidoscopic images. I would imagine it would seem much more profound if the viewer were given a complimentary marijuana cigarette upon entering the theatre. Come to think of it, maybe that's how the producers come up with their ideas. Still, one would think that three feature vehicles for Pikachu and his mind-numbing friends would be sufficient to convince our kids that there's got to be something better available and cause their interest in the avalanche of trashy collectibles to wane. Alas, you and I both know better. **½

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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