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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



My Little Pony-The Movie, review: Rainbow in her pony tail

My Little Pony-The Movie, review: Rainbow in her pony tail

Featuring the universe of the 1986 debut, My Little Pony: The Movie, the 2017 franchise, takes us back to the good old world of traditional animation, which is a rarity in the days of VFX, CGI and Motion Capture. A veritable feast of colours and dream architecture keep you enchanted and entranced for 99 minutes, and it matters little that the series is a spin-off from Equestrian Girls, a Hasbro Toys venture, targeted at, who else? Young girls. All the human or humanoid characters in the film, on the other hand, are evil men, and their world, is all about greys, blues and blacks. And great attention to detail means full frame after full frame of eye-candy (not what you thought, though!). There’s no romantic track at all, and with so many dazzling beauties (four-footed or winged, never mind) that does seem a pity. But that’s nit-picking. It’s Friendship Festival in Equestria, so come have a ball.

Cute as can be, the ponies/unicorns of Equestria are preparing for their first Friendship Festival, which is overseen by Princess Twilight Sparkle. Three other Princesses are invited, and Twilight asks them for a favour each. They turn her down. The festivities are interrupted by an invasion of monstrous storm creatures, commanded by the broken-horned unicorn, Tempest Shadow, who uses magical obsidian orbs to petrify Twilight's fellow princesses; Princess Celestia unsuccessfully urges Princess Luna to seek help from the south of Equestria, uttering "the queen of the hippo..." before being interrupted. Twilight flees the city in the company of her five pony friends – Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy – and her assistant mini dragon, Spike, setting out with them, in search of the afore-mentioned Hippo Queen.

Derived from a TV serial format, the incidents have the episodic touch. Meghan McCarthy, Joe Ballarini, Rita Hsiao and Michael Vogel set the pace early on with a high octane, over-the-top extravaganza opening, which starts to slacken in the segment where the ‘absconders’ go on a long journey with little idea about directions, and certainly no GPS. It seems odd that these creatures, who can fly, as shown in other scenes, proceed almost entirely on foot, on testing terrain, deserts included, while collapsing time and again. A fall-out among the group is an age-old play, as is the predictable reconciliation.

Some deep emotions are stirred when they encounter Capper, the Con Cat, and stowaway on a spaceship run by former pirates, now forced to do food delivery duty for Storm King, the arch villain and Tempest’s ruthless, unscrupulous boss. At least two of the resistance fighters’ escapes from impending capture are cleverly conceived, while the rainbow spectacle has to be seen to be believed. Villain and vamp are not well delineated and their motivations are hazy and illogical. In the end, the film truly lives up to its tagline, Friendship Is Magic, by Lauren Faust, which is the basis of the concept.

There’s an indulgent child living in the heart of 40 year-old Canadian animator Jaysen Thiessen, who makes a good screen debut, after working on the Pony TV series. You will lose count of how many colours and shades are flashing past your eyes after barely a minute, so don’t even bother. Almost all appear natural and soothe the eyes, rather than flashing on to your retina. Coming to romance, that has probably been saved for a rainy day (read: sequel). If this one could stand on its own, without a PonyTale-meets-PonyTail track, and it does, why waste it here? I cannot but help feeling it is a coming pretty soon, though. Some fine tuning was needed in perspective shots, magnifications and odd angles. But it is a well-directed cartoon movie that is almost age-neutral for audiences.

Tara Strong is Twilight, and her retinue: Tabitha St. Germain, Andrea Libman (double role), Cathy Weseluck and Ashleigh Ball (double role) make cheery chirpy, spunky, grumpy mates. Uzo Aduba is the curt hippogriff Queen Novo and Kristin Chenoweth as her ever-so-lonely, dying to be friendly daughter, Princess Sksytar get to bring in a major twist in the story which is resurrected at the end, rather tamely though. Emily Blunt is powerful as Tempest Shadow (whose real name in the film is Fizzlepop Beryytwist; gems like this reveal the ‘this isn’t serious--this isn’t real’ streak of the writers).

Enjoy the blustering bumbling capers of the Hedgehog, courtesy Michael Peña, which is complemented in a different context by Taye Diggs and the Tall Cat, the con artist Capper. Sia is Songbird Serenade, modelled after her real-life persona. Zoe Saldana voices for Captain Celaeno, and guess who that is?--a past his prime, humanoid, parrot pirate, the size of a human-sized duck/goose. Liev Schreiber plays Storm King, but for once, he can take his family along to see his film.

Incidentally, there are ponies galore, of a thousand shapes and sizes, and no one has laid claim to the title, ‘My Little Pony’. So, it’s up for grabs. Take your pick.

Rating: *** ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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