pokemon 4 ever (2002)


director: uncredited

It's a bad season for a new Pokemon movie. Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away occupies the high ground, a benchmark of imagination and technical artistry, while Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie has managed to suggest that children's animation can have integrity and wit at the same time. Parents who weathered the Pokemon craze and the kids who spent untold millions in allowance money to fuel it are feeling a bit burnt out, leaving younger kids new to the merchandising juggernaut less than primed for another feature-length Pokemon excursion.

It's hard for anyone over twelve to plunge into the Pokemon universe and not feel bewildered and, perhaps, a bit defensive. A backstory involving Ash Ketchum, a Pokemon "trainer", and the friends and allies he meets on his journeys through the magic forests where Pokemon live, is already in an advanced state, and the plot of Pokemon 4 Ever involves time travel and the younger forms of existing characters. In addition, there's the infinite array of creatures, as vast and varied as toy designers can imagine, introducing themselves like catalogue items, or runway models showing us next season's look. The mix of the crass and the plain silly is wearing, as is the metronomic repetition of the word Pokemon, a battering hail of branding that grates on the ears.

Someone with an interest in Japanese mythology might find it rewarding to ignore this, along with the peeping, overweening cuteness of Pikachu, Ash's personal Pokemon, and fixate on the primal, pagan world of the magic forest. Similarly, a child psychologist might be fascinated by the appeal of these cute but combative creatures, and find some profound insight into the harsh world of school-age children. A disinterested adult, and especially one accompanying a child, will probably only feel dismay, and a longing for the day when their children's enthusiasms are hoarded and private, something they'd never think of sharing with their parents. A truly sad state of affairs.