Rated PG - Running Time: 1:22 - Released 10/6/00

I've seen some crappy kids' cartoon movies in my day, but I have to say I have never been so appalled as I was trying to make sense out of Digimon: The Movie, the latest release in the Japanese-originated-manufactured-cartoon-heroes-for-the- purpose-of-selling-overpriced- merchandise-to-innocent-unsuspecting-kids-and-their-justifiably-annoyed-parents category. If you thought Pokémon was bad, this stuff will knock your socks off. A mass of technobabble and loud noises "written" by Jeff Nimoy and Bob Buchholz and "directed" by Mamoru Hosoda, Minoru Hosoda, and Shigeyasu Yamauchi, the film tells the story of characters created in the computer (hence "digital monsters"), and is patterned stylistically after the craze started by Pikachu and his pals, but the story is incomprehensibly stupid and the production values vehemently soulless. Not only is the animation visibly jerky, ugly, and unprofessional, about 50% of the words in the script either begin with the prefix "digi-" or end with the suffix "-mon," a phenomenon that seems intentionally designed to produce a nervous breakdown among parents in the shortest possible time.

Perhaps my personal dissatisfaction was caused by the fact that from about halfway through the movie I was fighting desperately to stay awake, but even the children in the audience at my showing were running up and down the aisles toward the end, blissfully unaware of the seizure-inducing events unfolding on the screen. What ever happened to Bugs Bunny tying Elmer Fudd's shotgun barrel into a bow? Now, that's cartoon entertainment.

The story, if you can call it that, which features the nearly indistinguishable voices of Joshua Seth and Mona Marshall, comes in three acts: first we have some Japanese kids who get a digimon out of their computer (this apparently happens from time to time in the "digi" world), and ultimately witness a huge fight between it and another creature for no apparent reason. Act two, arguably the most interesting and followable portion of the film, has one creature living in the Internet, spreading computer viruses all over the place and threatening to take complete control, while our pre-pubescent heroes and their pixellated pals fight to turn the situation around. The segment features a surrealistic but visually interesting trip into cyberspace with some eye-pleasing images. Act three involves some sort of major battle between good and evil digimon, the result of which will determine the fate of the world as we know it.

Apparently, the whole gimmick of Digimon is the concept that unlike Pokémon, these creatures "evolve" every so often (actually it's called "digi-volving"), turning into more and more powerful and menacing cyber-fighters, going through various levels with names like the rookie level, the champion level, and the ultimate level. This concept is primarily designed to sell the ridiculously expensive digimon cards (I've heard that some are priced upwards of $20 each), and not to make interesting or watchable stories. After all, if you've got a card with a certain digmon on it, you have to get all the various permutations of that character as he "digivolves," so you can impress your friends with the complete set. This Pokémon/Digimon phenomenon seems to have every American kid between the ages of 3 and 10 by the throat right now, and it's making money faster than they can print up the coveted cards, computer software, and other digi-merchandise. So one would think that the Japanese producers could afford production values to make a film like this more watchable. Guess again. *

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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