Yay! ‘My Little Pony’ movie a tuneful, colorful delight
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The formula for entertaining kids is so tried and true, even mediocre movies frequently get it right. Throw together some gags, bright colors, lively voice acting and a good message, and you’ve got yourself a cinematic babysitter. Of course, it’s always nice when a kid’s film aims higher than the bare necessities, especially when it’s a beloved property that doesn’t have to.
Parents and adult Pony fans alike will be pleased to know that the latest “My Little Pony” movie more than clears that bar. You do not have to be a child — or even have played with the toys when you were one — to find “My Little Pony: The Movie” an utter delight.
The plot is boilerplate kid’s fare, especially familiar to anyone who grew up on a steady diet of cheerful ’80s properties like the original “My Little Pony,” “Care Bears” and “Rainbow Brite.” Best buddies embarking on a perilous quest? Check. Friendship saving the day? Check. A villain who really just needs a great big hug? Check. Not that familiarity breeds contempt, in this case. Those stories have worked for decades; why mess with a winning formula?
Pony homeland Equestria is pulling out all the stops for a glittering Friendship Festival. Twilight Sparkle, the littlest and most inexperienced of the four pony princesses, is in charge of planning the festivities, which are coming together with the help of friends like lightning-fast Rainbow Dash and ebullient Pinkie Pie. Pop star Sia is even on deck to perform (voiced by the actual Sia, her pony avatar complete with her trademark curtain of two-toned, face-obscuring hair).
Then, in rides the tempest — and Tempest (Emily Blunt), an armor-clad pony with a broken horn, sent by the fearsome Storm King (Liev Schreiber) to capture the four pony princesses and harness their powers. Three of the princesses fall prey to Tempest, but clever Twilight Sparkle escapes by the tip of her horn. With her friends in tow, she flees Tempest and sets off to find the queen of the hippos — the last clue she received from the princesses before they were captured. Their quest takes them far beyond the boundaries of Equestria, from an airship with a flock of pirate parrots to deep into the ocean with a school of mermaid hippogriffs (yes, you read that right; somehow, it works).
It’s all joyous silliness, as a “My Little Pony” movie should be, packed with clean humor and pony puns. Each pony has a distinct, sparkling personality brought to life by seasoned voice actors who belt catchy, empowering songs about the power of friendship and the virtues of being awesome.
Important lessons, those, ever since the ponies first trotted into our hearts and ever after. And “My Little Pony: The Movie” proves not all life lessons are a chore to learn.
Barbara VanDenburgh, USA TODAY Network
Lionsgate presents a film directed by Jayson Thiessen and written by Meghan McCarthy, Rita Hsiao and Michael Vogel. Rated PG (for mild action). Running time: 99 minutes. Now showing at local theaters.