Magic of friendship remains in 'My Little Pony: Equestria Girls'
Morbid curiosity is a wonderful thing. So, sure, let’s watch My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. I mean, look at this thing. Look at it. It’s got to be a train wreck, and train wrecks are worth looking at, except this is only a metaphorical train wreck, so there’s less guilt about staring at a horrific accident where someone might have died. Nobody died because of Equestria Girls. So that’s a plus.
Besides, what if it was actually, you know, decent? I mean, it’s an hour and a half commercial for slightly creepy dolls. But I’ve been wrong before. How do you know if it’s good if you don’t try it? It might be good.
Guess what? Might happened.
A note on dolls
Spoiler alert: turns out this whole MLP:FIM thing might have been about selling dolls to little girls all along! I know, right?
Blame Equestria Girls on Barbie; before she of the plastic breasts came along, girls’ dolls were “companions” and “friends,” or something little girls could take care of, i.e. baby dolls. But Barbie, with her adult body, changed that; she became an “ideal,” something for little girls to become. The first major American ”fashion” doll, she was a runaway success. Turns out that’s what little girls want to play with, bad body image be darned; that Barbie has accessories that could be continuously updated was a sweet bonus for the dollmakers.
My Little Pony, as a doll set, is old-fashioned in that it is a “companion” doll (“friendship” is right there in this iteration’s name), with a bit of the caretaking thrown in. Obviously, no girl can become a pony, and though the Friendship is Magic line has made great strides in the art of putting dresses on horses and making it somehow not completely ridiculous, how many accessories does Applejack really need?
Now even Barbie is old-fashioned, because fashion evolves, and now little girls’ fashion is very different, what with the Bratz and their based-on-monsters-but-actually-slightly-less-creepy Monster High rivals; yes, they look like tramps, but these doll appeal to a little girl’s desire to be adult, and that’s what today’s adults look like to them. So, yes, Hasbro has decided to launch a new line of their own that updates My Little Pony in ways that we probably should feel uncomfortable about, and also forced an out-of-left-field storyline on the tie-in show’s writers, but that’s dolls.
What I’m saying is if you have a problem with this movie being a glorified doll commercial, that’s silly, because the show was always a glorified doll commercial. They just updated the dolls. (And if you’re wondering how I know so much about dolls, it’s because I do my research!)
The actual review
The story picks up more or less where Season 3 ended, with newly-winged Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) about to attend her very first princess summit. She is worried about her new responsibilities; she doesn’t feel ready to rule. Also, sprouting wings out of nowhere takes some getting used to.
Right there, we have a clearly defined, likeable protagonist with a clear, understandable problem. My Little Pony: The Movie, this is not.
Unfortunately for those of us hoping for an in-depth look at the pony princess political process, a mysterious unicorn steals Twilight’s crown, which also happens to be her Element of Harmony. Basically, this is the equivalent of someone stealing America’s nuclear launch codes, so the princess summit is put on hold while Twilight recovers the stolen crown. The thief ran into a magic mirror that’s a portal to another dimension; it’s open for three more days, then it’s closed for “30 moons.”
Is it anthropomorphic?
Short answer to the subtitle’s question: yes. Longer answer: If anthropomorphism is assigning human traits to non-human things, then a pony suddenly finding herself with all of the human traits is actually as anthropomorphic as it gets. So, yes.
The better question is, “Is it furry?” That one I shall leave up to the individual reader to decide according to their own personal definitions.
Not another teen movie
Twilight goes into the magic mirror a naked little pony, and emerges a teenage girl; fully dressed, thankfully. Spike (Cathy Weseluck) the dragon accompanies her, though he ends up naked on the other side. He got stuck as a dog, and is a bit calmer about the whole thing. Twilight freaks out at first, and takes a while to figure out this whole “being human” thing, which is both the set up for a series of really funny sight gags, and an actual plot point.
Turns out the thief, Sunset Shimmer (Rebecca Shoichet, who also, ironically, does Twilight’s singing), lost the crown, and it is now going to be used by Canterlot High (home of the fighting WonderColts!) to crown this year’s Fall Princess. So, Twilight is now the protagonist of a teen movie; her job is to win the crown by becoming the most popular girl in school.
The movie plays the “teen movie” clichés pretty darn straight, though with a few updates. The most-popular-girl-in-the-school-despite-being-a-word-we-don’t-use-in-pony-reviews is present and accounted for in the personage of Sunset Shimmer, but in this case, she’s not particularly popular; she keeps winning Fall Princess because she ruins the reputation of her opponents, so now nobody runs against her. The scene where someone explains the different cliques is also here; Fluttershy (Andrea Libman), of all people, points them out to Twilight; though, once again, it is implied that Sunset Shimmer’s presence is responsible for the fractured school body.
Turns out Sunset Shimmer actually is a pony like Twilight; she was a former student of magic who turned evil, but escaped to this world via the magic mirror. She has set about tearing down every friendship in the school; she apparently started up the whole always winning Fall Princess thing as a hobby, but now it’s important. She needs that crown for her evil plan to rule Equestria.
Twilight meets her other friends’ human doppelgangers, but as victims of Sunset Shimmer’s manipulations, they hate each other. Exposing the truth, Twilight rallies the school behind her with the help of her new/old friends. Like any good teen movie, it all comes down to prom night (well, Fall Festival night).
Not another high-school musical
Surprisingly, this is not a musical; this is a relief after the non-stop songfest of the Season 3 finale (seriously, I think some ponies are still singing the final lousy song somewhere). There are a couple songs, but they are either in the background, or it actually makes sense why the characters would be singing – for instance, Twilight’s friends pull off a flash mob type stunt to drum up votes for her.
None of the songs, however, really stood out, though the flash mob song was probably the best of the new stuff. There was pretty nice remix of the show’s main theme for the opening credits, though.
For the fans
Admittedly, being a fan of the show, I get a lot of the in-jokes; I was in a theater with a good-sized brony crowd, and the biggest reactions were to a supporting or even background character basically just walking onscreen. As some sources predicted, there were cases of clueless parents who obviously did not know what they had just signed up for at the screening as well; they were mystified at who these people were, and why they were laughing so hard at the lunch lady.
To the movie’s credit, it rarely stopped itself to spotlight these characters; if you didn’t know who Big Macintosh was and weren’t surrounded by giggling bronies, you probably wouldn’t notice him other than as the guy who was helping Applejack carry boxes that one time; yes, he does say his trademark “Yup” and “Nope” and that’s it, but it was appropriate for the scene. The two times it did stop itself, however, were worth it (though probably lost on non-fans); the Great and Powerful Trixie versus a vending machine and the Cutie Mark Crusaders becoming their universe’s Rebecca Black were pretty good jokes.
And of course, stay for the end of the credits.
It’s definitely a Twilight Sparkle movie; she’s the hero, and she’s thrust into a bizarre situation beyond her control, but she never loses sight of who she is and what her core values are. Now, if I just had some sort of metaphor for how the creators of the show managed to deal with this odd marketing ploy they were given to end this review. Huh. Can’t think of one. Oh, well, I guess I’ll just say it’s a pretty good movie.