June 28, Hasbro has just released the trailer for My Little Pony: The Movie. I’m mildly impressed. It’s fun. Zany. Action-packed. It has great animation and it appears to have references designed for people over the age of twelve. Consider me in. Movies based on toys—scratch that—animated movies (No go, GI Joe) based on toys have come a long way in recent years. The LEGO Movie took the formula, smashed it to tiny little-hurt-so-fucking-much-to-step-on-pieces, and demonstrated that it can work and then some. Paging Hasbro, paging Hasbro! Time to get in on this shit, bros—scratch that—bronies!
Only that trailer was a lie! This sojourn into Equestria is colorful and features enhanced animation design over the television show the film is based off (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), but beyond that this seems like a mindless, or at least mind-numbing attempt at a movie. I had trouble staying awake throughout, and while your eight-year-old might trance out, zombie-like, in front of the supersaturated ponies, there was at least one dad whose snores were audible throughout my screening.
My Little Pony: The Movie
Director: Jayson Thiessen
Release Date: October 6, 2017
I’m no brony. And I’m uninitiated in the ways of Equestria. It took this film’s trailer for me to want to learn a little bit about the My Little Pony franchise and its current state of affairs today which is, it turns out, overwhelmingly positive. It’s a multibillion dollar a year franchise with fans of all ages, literally. The filmmakers wanted to stay true to the show in making this movie, and maybe that’s obvious in watching it, but I wouldn’t know and that’s a problem. For the uninitiated, this was a grueling exercise in futility. The futility of fighting eyelids too heavy for eyes to keep open. The futility of promising your mind engagement and delivering all the elements of a story without any of the glue to hold the elements cohesively together to form one. Hence my recommendation: Old Yeller these ponies and send them to the glue factory already. At least then, maybe the team behind this movie would have the cohesive magic in hand to form something better than this. I found myself wanting Mike, a character from the blockbuster IT, to show up here, and use his captive bolt pistol on these creatures, and then maybe on me for good measure, as sure, I could have used a dose of put-me-out-of-my-misery right about then
Wherein The Lego Movie was clever, this is not. Wherein Moana has an amazing soundtrack, this does not. I won’t ignore the movie’s musical high notes—there were two: an opening montage covered by The Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat” was a welcome surprise, and then, about 80% of the way through the film, Emily Blunt’s Tempest does a great evil character song set to militaristic drumbeats and bass tonalities that I dug when in chorus. But, otherwise, the original songs weren’t even the catchy shtick you’d expect from kid’s programming like Mickeymouse Clubhouse or, well anything that actually has catchy music.
Sadly, this brony only shows up at this one point, the movie’s conclusion
And here I’m speaking to parents, because they’ll probably be the poor souls dragged to this Trojan horse of a film (first they sneak it into a movie theater and then into your home in hoards of cleverly marketed, movie-based toys!) in numbers greater than any other demographic (sorry bronies, you delightful bastards). Parents, I know you’ve come to expect filmmakers to give you subtle nods here and there. You should! They do! References that fly right over children’s heads like rainbow-tailed ponies dot the landscape of children’s programming like f-bombs in a Carlin stand-up bit. A penis castle on the cover of The Little Mermaid, a question about suitor shoe size from Kristoff to Anna in Frozen. Don’t expect them here.
OK, there may have been a pony bodyguard that’s channeling Samuel L. Jackson straight out of Pulp Fiction, but that was hardly enough to make up for the rest of it. References aren’t everything—sometimes its just clever writing that makes a movie go, but nothing about this felt clever. It felt contrived, soulless, and sparkly.
I’m sure comments are going to disagree with me and I’m also sure I have no idea what the brony community sees in this show—but as far as the movie is concerned, I found it lacking any of the basic elements that would redeem a children’s movie in adult eyes. Maybe its makers are too close to the show. Director Jayson Thiessen directs and Executive Produces the show and half the screenplay team, Meghan McCarthy is known almost exclusively for her work writing the show. But what happened to co-screenwriter Rita Hsiao who owns credits to Mulan and Toy Story 2? Presumably, they buried her under heaping mountains of pony dung when she tried to interject a bit of wit into this too colorful yet not colorful at all experience.