Streaming review: 'My Little Pony: A New Generation'
The long running My Little Pony is introducing its latest toyline "generation" with what was supposed to be a theatrical movie. Due to the whole "ongoing pandemic" thing, that was mostly canceled (it was released theatrically in a few regions) and the whole thing moved to the streaming service Netflix, where any further spin-offs will also be held. My Little Pony: A New Generation is directed by Robert Cullen and José Luis Ucha with co-director Mark Fattibene, and has been available on Netflix since September 24 in most regions.
Not to beat around the bush, but the last time My Little Pony launched, it was kind of a thing. I'm sure the vast majority of Flayrah's readership is well aware of the "brony" subculture, but if you somehow missed it, or would just like a refresher, this Ursa Major-nominated video by YouTuber Jenny Nicholson is recommended – though you could always troll through Flayrah's "My Little Pony" tag. The upshot: there are higher expectations attached to this series relaunch than usual.
The movie opens on a scene featuring Friendship is Magic's main cast and animation style, apparently about to set off on some sort of adventure, only to reveal this is just happening in the imagination of some young ponies playing with toys.
It's not clear if this movie takes place in the Equestria of Friendship is Magic, or if its characters are as fictional in this movie's universe as they are in ours. There are some clues that maybe this is the same world, but it's also possible that these worlds just share some similarities. I mean, beyond the whole "populated by intelligent horses" thing. I hope it's not the same; if it is, the movie would share one of the inherent flaws of the Star Wars sequels, in that the older generation's heroes are abject failures.
One of the main differences between this new generation of ponies and the old generation is that the three main types of ponies (unicorns, pegasus and "earth" ponies, i.e. ponies without horns or wings) hate and fear each other. Seeing as how the older show's characters stated goal was to maintain harmony and friendship between everyone, if they're this series' past, they did not end up doing very well at that. Of course, the movie's plot is about the earth pony Sunny's (voiced by Vanessa Hudgens) quest to reunite these divided tribes of little ponies. The actual story begins when the unicorn Izzy (voiced by Kimiko Glenn) arrives in Sunny's hometown of Maretime Bay, naively assuming she'll be welcomed by the earth ponies there.
Once Izzy reveals to Sunny that unicorns have lost their ability to use magic with their horns, and when the two further find out the pegasus ponies can no longer fly, Sunny deduces that what this world needs now is friendship, which will bring the magic back. They are joined on this quest by a pair of princess pega-sisters, Zipp and Pipp (voiced by Liza Koshy and Sofia Carson), as well as Sunny's childhood friend and current sheriff of Maretime Bay, Hitch (voiced by James Marsden). Yes, there's actually a male pony in the main cast this time.
The quest to restore magic is pretty low stakes, with not a lot of real danger involved. However, Hitch's absence allows his slimy little deputy, Sprout (voiced by Ken Jeong) to take over the earth ponies in a surprisingly accurate portrayal of cartoon fascism. Sprout's turn to the dark side allows there to be at least some stakes for the climax.
The movie is a musical, but I found most of the songs so forgettable… sorry, I blanked there a moment, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah, songs. Two were kind of interesting, though:
- For some reason, Sprout's villain song is a direct, unapologetic parody of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance". I don't know what Lady Gaga [or Nirvana] did to deserve this, but it was bad.
- During a scene where Izzy must disguise her new friends as unicorns, she sings a song explaining how unicorns do things, ending with "This is how a unicorn ends this song!" which made me smile. It also contains the lyrics "This is how a unicorn struts, watch us shake our unicorn butts" – which, yeah, that also made me smile.
The animation is pretty good. While a lot of fans of the old show may not appreciate the fact that ponies are now CGI animated, said CGI is detailed and well done. The character designs don't stray too much from formula, but they're simple, sweet and just plain cute, so it gets the job done. They still don't actually look like real horses, though.
Personally, this is the fourth My Little Pony movie I've reviewed, so I was definitely caught up in the whole thing. Maybe it's not fair to compare this movie to its predecessors, but let's be real, it's what we all want to know. Is this a worthy successor to the Friendship is Magic generation? The truth is, I don't see this movie, or any series derived from it, blowing up and becoming the phenomenon with adults that Friendship is Magic was. But that has less to do with the quality of the movie than the fact that this generation has made a conscious decision to skew younger. It's just not trying that hard to push beyond its target audience, and that's fine, even if it's probably not what my target audience wants.
This is how a fox ends this review!