Digimon: The Movie

Apparently “Digimon” premiered in Japan before “Pokemon” did, making it the originator, not the ripoff. Which may explain why it’s better than “Pokemon.” Problem is, that’s not saying much, and frankly, “Digimon” isn’t deserving of much, as it’s still not a very good movie. But at least it’s not as bad as “Pokemon.”

Digimon (short for “digital monsters”) are a number of different flesh-and-blood creatures that somehow came from computer-land into our world (well, Japan) in the form of Digi-eggs. Then they “Digivolve” into new monsters, getting bigger and bigger as they go. Their owners are kids, called the DigiDestined, who use them to fight Digi-evil.

The movie centers on Tai (voice of Joshua Seth) and his sister Kari (Lara Jill Miller), who acquired a Digimon named Koromon eight years ago. Now, in the present, there is a threat due to an American kid named Willis and his twin Digimon, one of which turns evil and, if I understand the movie correctly, seeks to destroy the Internet. This is perceived as a bad thing, and perhaps it wants to destroy something else, too; the movie’s kinda hard to follow sometimes.

At any rate, it’s up to the kids and their non-evil Digimon to save the day. They use computers quite a bit, particularly the techno-savvy Izzy (Mona Marshall), who is hardest hit when bad Digimon starts screwing everything up. There’s also a kid named TK (Wendee Lee), who I seem to recall figuring prominently in the putting-down of rebellious Digimon.

“Digimon: The Movie” benefits from well-drawn backgrounds and animation that is occasionally fluid, instead of the herky-jerky stuff that cheap Japanese animation is often known for. One senses this thing didn’t cost very much, either — the characters don’t have noses, for example, which I can only assume was due to budget contstraints — but at least it doesn’t reek of cheapness like that other product I’m not going to mention anymore.

Also, the human characters sort of have personalities in “Digimon,” and while 99 percent of the jokes are stupid (“Do you know what a semi-conductor is?” “A guy who works part-time on a train?”), at least they come in rapid succession and we aren’t beaten over the head with them.

Don’t get me wrong, though: It’s still a fairly bad movie. The dialogue is bad (“What better way to express friendship than to save your world?” someone says), and the characters say “Digi-” way too much. There are also a few bodily function jokes that are supposed to be funny because it’s a Digimon doing them. We won’t even mention the predictable plot, with its crisis that could be solved in two minutes but which is dragged on for a half-hour because the people involved fail to grasp the obvious.

I’m guessing kids — especially fans of the TV series — will be entertained, and their parents shouldn’t have too much trouble bearing it. One warning, though: The music is often of the punk or speed-metal variety, and is very loud and intense. The lyrics aren’t objectionable or anything, but the songs may be a little jarring to your 4-year-old’s ears.

As far as shameless attempts to make money go, this one actually seems to have at least a little artistic integrity behind it. The finished product is still mediocre at best, but at least it’s not another “Pokemon.”

C- (; PG, cartoon violence.)