Attention The Emoji Movie: Your status as worst animated feature of the year might well be in jeopardy when My Little Pony: The Movie trots into theaters this weekend.
At best, it’s a dead heat between the former and this numbingly generic issuance from Allspark Pictures (Hasbro’s film unit), whose raison d’etre can be immediately traced to its sparkly rainbow-hued poster bearing an unmistakable resemblance to Trolls, another production taking its cue from a successful line of toys. Despite attracting a top-drawer voice cast, including Emily Blunt, Uzo Aduba and Liev Schreiber, the production remains as cloyingly plastic as the equine toys with the outsized Keane peepers.
Though grumpy male critics are obviously not the targeted audience, it remains to be seen if the Lionsgate release can lure sufficient numbers of female preschoolers to something that has been readily available for viewing, in one form or another, for the better part of the past 30 years.
Perhaps the results won’t be quite dazzling enough to greenlight a Beanie Babies: The Movie anytime soon.
For the record, it isn’t the first time the four-legged denizens of Ponyland have sung and danced their way onto the big screen. In 1986, ahead of the debut of the TV series, the inaugural My Little Pony: The Movie, featuring the voices of Danny De Vito, Rhea Perlman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman and Tony Randall, grossed just shy of $6 million for De Laurentiis Entertainment Group and Marvel Productions.
Cut to MLP:TM 2.0, which finds the Mane 6, as Princess Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong), Applejack (Ashleigh Ball), Rainbow Dash (also Ball), Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain), Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy (both voiced by Andrea Libman) are collectively known, busily preparing for their annual Festival of Friendship. But their party is crashed when a dark force descends upon Equestria courtesy of the villainous Storm King (Schreiber) and the grudge-bearing Tempest Shadow (Blunt), who’s determined to make somebody pay for her busted horn.
Mild action (as the MPAA correctly calls it) ensues, as the candy-hued heroines embark on a quest to save Equestria while pausing occasionally to bust out a bunch of inspirational ditties with Disney Broadway-esque titles like “I’m the Friend You Need” and “We Got This.”
While the main characters appear to have been given a bit of Powerpuff Girl sass by screenwriters Meghan McCarthy, Rita Hsiao and Michael Vogel, it ultimately does little to goose the limited hand-drawn 2D animation.
Director Jayson Thiessen, a veteran of numerous My Little Pony episodes, gets a minor energy boost from all those special guests, also including Kristin Chenoweth as an irrepressible sea pony named Princess Skystar, Taye Diggs as a con artist cat called Capper and Sia as an enigmatic pop star named Songbird Serenade, who belts out the ode to inclusivity, “Rainbow.”
Summing it all up is Schreiber’s Storm King, who at one point late in the proceedings moans, “I’m so totally over the cute pony thing!”
Production company: Allspark Pictures
Cast: Emily Blunt, Kristin Chenoweth, Liev Schreiber, Sia, Michael Pena, Taye Diggs, Uzo Aduba, Zoe Saldana
Director: Jayson Thiessen
Screenwriters: Meghan McCarthy, Rita Hsiao, Michael Vogel
Producers: Brian Goldner, Stephen Davis, Marcia Gwendolyn Jones, Haven Alexander
Executive producers: Josh Feldman, Meghan McCarthy, Kirsten Newlands, Sarah Wall
Director of photography: Anthony Di Ninno
Editor: Braden Oberson
Composer: Daniel Ingram
Rated PG, 99 minutes