Though my looks might deceive me, I’m not someone who can claim to hold a great deal of knowledge on the expansive mythos and lore of My Little Pony. The original series was before my time, and admittedly, my college days weren’t spend obsessed with its more actively silly, playful reboot. In short, I’m not a brony, and I never understood the newfound cultural fixation on this re-imagination of the popular Hasbro toyline. The addictive, seemingly bizarre infatuation it spawned — particularly among young girls and, weirdly enough, grown men near my age — was one that perplexed me. What was it about this newly rebooted show that caused viewers to be so wildly enamored with My Little Pony, something that was considered … well, kinda lame when I was growing up? What am I missing? To find out, I made a choice. In the spur of the moment, I ponied up, hoofed it to my theater and I attended my Saturday screening of My Little Pony: The Movie. How does it fare? I’ll quit stalling. Or horsing around. Pick your pun.
My Little Pony: The Movie is almost exactly what you’d expect, while simultaneously being neither as cloying and cutesy as you’d fear nor as endearing, surprising or winningly likable as you’d secretly hope. Never short on energy, enthusiasm, sincerity and gummy, gooey sweetness, yet never quite clever, inspired or inviting enough to win you over, My Little Pony is almost disappointingly middling. Not terrible enough to complain about, at least in full, and not funny or entertaining enough to really love, this one is decidedly only for the devoted fans. Everyone else is left chomping at the bit.
The general plot of My Little Pony: The Movie centers around the Mane 6 (that’s their pun, by the way, not mine) — which includes Princess Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong), Rainbow Dash (Ashleigh Ball), Pinkie Pie (Andrea Libman), Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain), Applejack (Ball), and Fluttershy (Libman), along with Spike (Cathy Weseluck), their loyal dragon companion — as they’re faced with their biggest, most dangerous mission yet. When the land of Ponyville threatened by a dark, brooding force of Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt), an unloved unicorn left without her horn, and her boss, The Storm King (Liev Schreiber, who surprisingly relishes his villainous character), our pony friends travel far to save the town before all is lost. Along the way, they make new friends, including Capper (Taye Diggs), a cat bugler with a good heart, Captain Celaneo (Zoe Saldana), a former Parrot pirate who looks like a discarded Treasure Planet character, and Princess Skystar (Kristin Chenoweth), an underwater seahorse in dire need of companions. Together, they’ll prove the power of friendship. Though, of course, what else would you expect from My Little Pony: The Movie? Oh yeah, and it’s also a musical.
Part of me wishes My Little Pony: The Movie was more annoying than it actually is. Or that it was more lovable or infectiously bubbly. I was pulling for something like The Powerpuff Girls Movie, which turned a popular, unabashedly girly children’s television series into a feature-length cinematic prequel and produced a fun, massively heartfelt movie that anyone — fan or otherwise — can easily enjoy. Or possibly something like The Lizzie McGuire Movie, which (from what I’ve heard, at least) has a cheesy charm that’s easy to digest. My Little Pony: The Movie is simply too accomplished and adapt to tear apart justly, yet it is so ingrained in its own weird little horse-filled universe (Side note: Why is this thing called My Little Pony if it mainly centers around unicorns?) that it doesn’t give a damn if you’re familiar with these characters and their world or not.
While it’s frustrating for me (and, I’m assuming select parents who’ll be dragged to see this fluorescent colored movie with their young children), it’s understandable that the filmmakers are more concentrated on their fans than any outsider watching this movie. But even at 99 minutes, My Little Pony: The Movie is a little too long for its own good. The winning speediness of the rebooted series is lost when the story pushes past the hour mark, and the jokes aren’t consistent enough to make it worth the fans’ while. There are more than a few chuckles found throughout, though I imagine I’d have just as many, if not more, laughs watching a single episode and I’d get them in much less time.
But again, I’m not the target audience here. I’m sure my review isn’t really going to make a lick of difference whether you decide to see this movie or not. And to its credit, My Little Pony: The Movie is not without charm. It’s not without glittering, sparkling pride either. But it’s also fairly tedious, blandly formulaic and insubstantial.
The rainbow-colored world of My Little Pony looks radiant on the big screen. The animation is well-polished and well-handled, and that should delight fans. And it’s also gleefully, eagerly epic in its cinematic approach, which makes the moviegoing experience more rewarding for those of you who’ve decided that My Little Pony: The Movie deserves your bucks spent. But in the end, I didn’t walk away from this big screen transition any closer to understanding what it is that makes this property so darn special. Maybe it’s something I’ll ultimately never understand. Maybe that’s for the best. All I got out of my time with My Little Pony: The Movie is two hours of my life gone, a few concerned looks from passing parents (I assume… I intentionally didn’t make eye contact with anyone in the theater) and this review. I hope it was worth it.