Are the kids in your life too young to see “Wonder Woman”? No worries: now they’ve got Twilight Sparkle Princess Pony, instead.
Yes, “My Little Pony: The Movie,” like its television predecessor, is all dressed up in bubbles and cupcakes and rainbows. But it’s so jam-packed with rousing girl power, it passes the Bechdel Test with (literally) flying colors.
As fans already know, the animated TV series, “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic,” is no mere toy-seller. Granted, this movie may send the ponies back to the top of holiday wish lists, but at least these are characters worth wishing for, and learning from.
At the center of the story is the aforementioned Twilight Sparkle (voiced by Tara Strong), the youngest of several princesses ruling the magical land of Equestria. When the movie opens, a very nervous Twilight is planning a big party for all of Equestria, with help from her friends Rainbow Dash and Applejack (both voiced by Ashleigh Ball), Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy (Andrea Libman), Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain), and Spike (Cathy Weseluck).
In case you’re unfamiliar with the series but remain committed to reading a review of a movie titled “My Little Pony,” you should know that some of the above are indeed ponies, but the others are unicorns, alicorns, or pegasi. With the exception of Spike, who’s a baby dragon.
Still with us? Each of the animals has his or her own personality traits, which occasionally spark conflicts but more often unite them as a team. Rainbow Dash and Applejack, for example, are plain-speaking and practical. Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are silly and sweet. Rarity is the fanciest, but still ready to help a filly out.
The ponies will have to work together after the villainous Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt) crashes Twilight’s party, to kidnap Equestria’s princesses. She and her boss, the Storm King (Liev Schreiber), intend to steal their power for themselves. Twilight and her friends escape just in time, hoping to find Queen Novo (Uzo Aduba) and get help. But before they can reach her, their treacherous path will take them past a pirate captain (Zoe Saldana), a con-artist cat (Taye Diggs), and one very excitable mermaid seapony (Kristin Chenoweth).
So. Mermaids, pirates, ponies, and princesses? Nope, you haven’t just wandered into a depressingly generic, color-coded aisle at Toys “R” Us. The fierce pirates are girls and boys, the wise princesses save themselves and others, and everybody has a good time while learning some pretty awesome lessons.
Director Jayson Thiessen, co-screenwriter Meghan McCarthy, and the rest of the team behind the TV series (and this film) have long been upfront in their desire to upend gender norms. Both their goals and style have been carried over to the multiplex so faithfully, the movie mostly feels like an extended episode.
There are some decent songs — including one from Sia, who also plays a pony — but in general the formula stands. You’ll find the same unabashedly flat animation, gentle but genuine scares, and easy-to-understand humor (bumped up a notch by a funny Schreiber and Michael Peña’s hedgehog sidekick Grubber). You’ll also get clearly-drawn messages about friendship, responsibility, self-reliance, and kindness.
Together, it’s a blueprint that’s won millions of fans, not just among kids (and nostalgic former kids), but parents desperate for inspiring, child-friendly entertainment. So come for the glitter, but stay for the girl power.