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The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002)

by on 2011/05/19


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When you’re a geek, you tend to notice unusual things, but you’re probably not as likely to dismiss them. Or you are, but only after methodically breaking them down to constituent parts.

One thing I’ve often noticed is the tendency for grown-ups to gravitate toward childish things. Really childish things. Not in a creepy kind of way . . . simply mystifying. Like, why do middle-agers watch The Powerpuff Girls show? I suppose you may as well ask why Gru loves Spongebob Squarepants, or why I myself love Rocket Robin Hood.

Just seeing Powerpuff mentioned by geeks wasn’t enough to bring me on board. It seemed a little hyper and, let me tell you, I dislike hyper. But then I learned the magic words, “Genndy Tartakovsky”. He’s the creative force behind some truly amazing cartoons, combining the flat minimalism of South Park, and the style of an artist like Shag. If you’ve seen the original Star Wars: Clone Wars or the earlier Samurai Jack, you know his work.

Why not just check out the TV series? It’s a long story best summarized thusly: the movie was made after the series, benefiting from its years of experience; the movie takes place before the series, less a prequel than an origin; the movie fits into a single case, while the series comes in a space-hogging crate. Game, set, and match.

Or perhaps I should say, “sugar, spice, and everything nice”, for that’s the big sell in this piece. Those are the ingredients combined with Chemical X by Professor Utonium in his suburban Townsville lab. The resulting explosion spontaneously produces three little girls, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, and mutates a nearby simian named Jojo.

The triplets soon manifest powers similar to those of Superman: flight, speed, strength, and so on, though each of them has a variant temperament. After their first day at school, a game of tag gets out of hand, and they eventually destroy the downtown core. The citizens turn on them, arrest the professor, and the vigilante Jojo takes them in. Together, he assures them, they will build a help-the-town-and-make-it-a-better-place machine. But can he really be trusted?

Right away I should probably note there’s no significant subtext. Read into the tale what you will, but it’s as nourishing as a five-dollar tub of gummi bears. Like such a confectionary, The Powerpuff Girls exists for the sake of fun, pure and simple.

And where candy tastes so sweet, so too does this picture look. It might be among my favourite-ever style-wise, the rainbow equivalent of Batman the Animated Series.

Similarly, its script exists to deliver puns and wordplay. From the exaggerated intensity of the voiceover, to the rapid-fire chatter of the girls, a minute rarely passes without the following kind of line: “The hobo that was formally known as Jojo is no mo’”. You’ll either like its novelty, or you won’t.

Which, I suppose, is true of the entire feature itself. The Powerpuff Girls’ multicoloured, frantic pace, and speed-techno experience is relentless in its style-as-a-weapon assault. I wouldn’t have imagined I could ever see it through, never mind enjoying it as well. When it finally came crashing to a halt, it left me with this thought: I need a new word to express “more hyper than hyper”.

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Rated PG

73 minutes

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