Pokemon 3 The Movie

The third installment in the once-popular “Pokemon” series of movies is better than the last two. This is faint praise, of course, since the last two were insipid piles of trash built only to bilk more money out of undiscriminating kids. The third movie is still very bad, make no mistake, but yes, it is a little better than the last two.

Even the animation is better, which makes me hold out some hope for anime in general, which usually features nicely drawn pictures that hardly move at all, thus stretching the definition of the term “animation.” (The previous statement was made solely to upset anime fans. It’s become tradition around here.)

“Pokemon 3 The Movie,” which is punctuated exactly the way I just punctuated it, begins with a short called “Pikachu and Pichu.” In it, the two popular Pokemon go into the big city and have a lot of hijinks. Their movements are supplemented with video-game sound effects, which is a hint at what this is really all about: selling more games.

Then the real movie begins. It is called “Spell of the Unown.” (Perhaps “Misspell of the Unknown” would be more accurate.) In it, noted Pokemon researcher Spencer Hale disappears while researching the Unown, which are a bunch of crazy letters that can make your imagination come to life, or something.

Hale either reappears as a new lion-esque Pokemon called Entei, or else he doesn’t; the movie is not clear on this point. At any rate, Entei appears (and either is or isn’t the reincarnation of Hale) and visits Hale’s now-orphaned daughter, Molly, whose imagination combines with the Unown to turn her house into a crystal fortress, which draws the attention of the news media and a bunch of Pokemon-collecting kids.

Among the kids is Ash Ketchum, noted Pokemon “trainer” (though I see little training going on) and owner of the aforementioned Pikachu. They’re all standing around gawking at the crystal fortress when Entei emerges and runs off with Ash’s mom. Seems Molly had declared she wanted a Mommy, so Entei went out to fetch one, much like Adam Pontipee in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Ms. Ketchum happened to be the first woman he saw, so bless her beautiful hide, she’s the lucky wife of the monstrous Entei. Be sure to send a gift; they’re registered at the San Diego Zoo;

So now Ash wants his mom back, the big baby, and heads into the fortress with his buddies and all their Pokemon. Then a lot of the Pokemon fight each other, and no one dies, and there’s a winner, and I have a headache.

From a narrative standpoint, the film’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t make any sense. Its second biggest problem is that there is no villain. Entei, while he is the one who holds Molly and Ms. Ketchum hostage, is not a bad guy. He’s merely doing his duty as a minister of the Unown, and making Molly’s wishes come true. There’s Team Rocket, a duo of alleged criminals who never commit any crimes, but they’re around for comic relief, and in fact they help the heroes win. So, no villain. Oh, well.

The kids at the screening I attended seemed to enjoy themselves very much, especially the ones who were fans of the “Pokemon” TV show. To some extent, if the kids were entertained, the movie was a good one. But on the other hand, as I’ve said before, you could give a kid a pair of tube socks and he’d find a way to amuse himself. That doesn’t mean tube socks are a brilliant work of art, or worth spending $7 on.

“Pokemon 3 The Movie” is rather worthless, teaching only the vaguest of messages and containing no coherent plot lines. It’s probably not harmful, either … but neither is “Spy Kids,” which is a very good movie, on several levels. Take the tots to see that one instead.

D+ (; G.)