Rated G - Running Time: 1:41 - Released 7/21/00

Whether you call it Pokémon 2000, or Pokémon: The Movie 2000, or Poketto monsutaa: Maboroshi no Pokémon X: Lugia bakudan (its official title), or even Pocket Monsters The Movie: The Phantom Pokémon: Lugia's Explosive Birth (yes, that really is one of the titles listed), it can only mean one thing: another orgy of kids screaming out unintelligible names, wallowing in Pokémon merchandise obtained from fast food establishments, and collecting inexplicably important trading cards. What it can't mean, under any circumstances, is a well-crafted children's movie. No, the movie is secondary, simply a device used to sell more Pokémon, introduce new Pokémon, and keep the name "Pokémon" in the public consciousness. Have I said it enough yet?

That said, I must admit that this film, directed by Kunihiko Yuyama and Michael Haigney, has a little more going for it than its predecessor. The animation still doesn't pretend to be anything but lines on celluloid and the characterizations are still limited to the depth of the screen, but there is some kind of cosmic harmony to the idea, and, I must say, some beautiful music featured.

Preceding Lugia's Explosive Birth (I'd hate to be the obstetrician for that one) is a short feature which has Pikachu (voiced by Ikue Ootani) and pocket-monster pals battling against the weather, screaming their names and doing their various singular activities. Although each character can only say his own name, it's not necessarily a rule that he must say his whole name; each syllable can be said in any order or combination, or even over and over. This results in Pikachu uttering the phrase "Pee-Pee" or "Ka-Ka" on more than one occasion. It is unknown whether this was written into the script this way or simply Ootani's subtle commentary on her profession.

After the short, the feature begins with Pokémon-trainer Ash (Veronica Taylor) and his friends Misty (Rachael Lillis), Brock (Eric Stuart), and, of course, Pikachu, traveling on a vacation in the tropical Orange Islands. Among these are three mythical islands of fire, ice, and lightning, where three powerful flying Pokémon live. According to legend, if these three warbirds are ever captured, there will appear a fourth and most powerful creature, the "great guardian" Lugia. Unbeknownst to our friends, a villain with an elaborate flying machine has planned to catch the three beasties and therefore have Lugia as his own. Only "the chosen one" can deter him from doing so, and that person is Ash. A melee ensues.

Apart from the villain's digitally rendered but aeronautically impossible flying machine, which stands out in sharp contrast, the animation of this film is nothing better than vintage Flintstones. Surprisingly, Pikachu has very little to do with the plot, so die-hard fans may be disappointed. On the other hand, I daresay die-hard fans could not possibly be discriminating enough to notice, since most of them are still in diapers. **½

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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