Rated PG - Running Time: 1:27 - Released 7/3/02

I suppose Craig McCracken, creator of the cartoon TV series The Powerpuff Girls, is trying to appeal to a wider audience than is immediately apparent with his first feature film. I haven't seen enough episodes of the TV show, which got its start in 1992 as an animated short called Whoopass Stew! and was picked up by Cartoon Network in 1998, to know if the script is regularly as full of extremely obscure adult references as the film, but I have no doubt it is. McCracken (who also created Dexter's Laboratory, of which there is a short episode before the feature) infuses his scripts with material obviously intended to whiz over the heads of his primary audience of kids in the same way that his three super-powered protagonists whiz over the metropolitan city of Townsville. But I think, in a way, he's shooting his own foot here. The script for this film (which he co-wrote with Charlie Bean and several others) is certainly smarter than you would expect, but the animation is so spastic that I can't imagine many adults able to watch it long enough to pick up on the subtlety of the humor. While the drawings themselves, highly stylized, stark, angular, and colorful, intentionally flat with very little depth or shading, are in a way very pleasing to look at, the action is barely tolerable. I would think most adult viewers would get nauseous long before they got any jokes.

The Powerpuff Girls is intended as a prequel to the TV show, explaining how Blossom (the redhead, voice of Catherine Cavadini), Bubbles (the blonde, Tara Charendoff), and Buttercup (brunette, E.G. Daily) were created and how their super-powers originated. It seems that a lonely scientist named Professor Utonium (Tom Kane) combined sugar, spice, and everything nice in a large pot, trying to save his town from rampant crime, but inadvertently knocked a beaker of "Chemical X" into the mix. Out popped the Powerpuff Girls, three cute but immensely powerful pixies, each dressed in her own color scheme, who not only possess high-pitched voices and a pleasant demeanor, but superhuman strength, super intelligence, and the ability to fly. When their innocent game of tag ends up destroying Townsville, they are ostracized by the townspeople and Prof. U. is imprisoned, but they join forces with a superintelligent monkey named Jojo (Roger L. Jackson), who also apparently absorbed some of the mysterious chemical, to make Townsville a better place. Unfortunately, Jojo turns out to be Mojo Jojo, a criminal mastermind who uses the girls to help him create an immense army of super primates who wreak even more havoc on the town. Now the girls must battle him and his simian army to win back their good names and save their father from prison.

Although this film is only 1½ hours long, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone with high blood pressure, epilepsy, or any type of stress disorder. While director McCracken is clearly trying to rise above the inanity of normal TV cartoon screenwriting, its as if he's daring the adults in the audience to endure the visual roller-coaster ride in order to enjoy the dialogue. Meanwhile, children, to whom most of the jokes will mean nothing, simply get a dose of cinematic adrenaline which will probably make them difficult for their parents to tolerate for the rest of the day. Sheesh, McCracken, whose side are you on, anyway? **½

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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