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Oh, by the way, there's a new 'Pokemon'

By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000

Does anyone beyond elementary school -- or the parents pacifying them -- care that a new Pokemon film opens today?

Pokemon The Movie 2000 is creeping into theaters on tiny Pikachu feet, compared with the promotional commotion surrounding last year's Pokemon The Movie.

Burger joints aren't shoving tie-ins down our throats. Media outlets are taking a been-there, hyped-that attitude. Even Warner Bros. publicists don't seem eager to make everyone Poke-maniacs as before. The sequel will profit even if only a fraction of the core audience shows up at theaters.

After all, Warner Bros. is simply recycling a Japanese movie purchased for distribution for much less than the cost of producing its own animated feature. That's a blessing after the way The King and I turned out for the studio.

Spend a little money to hire no-name actors for English dubbing, toss in a few Western cultural references and devise a rudimentary advertising campaign. Toy stores, playground scuttlebutt and Warner Bros.' in-house TV syndication will do the rest.

The Pokemon movies and characters are sweetly infantile. The cynical ways grown-ups use them sour the advantages of such family entertainment.

Pokemon The Movie 2000 is a combination of a short subject and a barely feature-length film. Cheery themes of cooperation remain intact, yet these brief, positive messages have all the sincerity of a carnival barker. Almost like an alibi to use whenever anyone gets suspicious about the true purpose of Pokemon.

Pikachu's Rescue Adventure stars the fad's most popular critter, a roly-poly mutant rabbit. Pikachu leads the other Pokemon-sters on a series of barely connected cliffhangers in a magical forest.

The Power of One follows Pikachu's human trainer, Ash Ketchum, as he saves the world from a meteorological disaster.

Together, the films are hallucinatory sedatives, not worth the price of even a matinee admission. That is, unless money is no object to keep peace at home. Waiting for the cheaper alternative of home video will also allow adults to escape to other parts of the house when things get dull.

Pokemon The Movie 2000

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