Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie

If I understand “Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie” correctly — and there is every chance I do not — it is about a card game featuring imaginary monsters and warriors that somehow, in this instance, summons ACTUAL evil beings that threaten mankind. Why would you make a movie that tells kids that their innocent card game might, under the right circumstances, result in their death? Where’s the fun in that?

This is one of the most incomprehensible films I’ve seen in a while, though I suspect kids who play the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game in real life will understand it perfectly. Dubbed from Japanese, the dialogue is the usual combination of awkwardly translated bluster (“Make all the smug pronouncements you want!”), important-sounding declarations (“Shadow Creatures, be gone! I command you!”) and whacked-out insanity (“You may have destroyed my clown, but you forgot about my deck virus trap card!”). Nearly every line, out of context, is hilarious. In context, it’s impressive just how boring the film is.

In the prologue, a boy named Yugi Moto (voice of Dan Green) completes something called the Millennium Puzzle at the same time that archeologists in Egypt awaken the evil spirit Anubis, who was apparently defeated a long time ago by a different incarnation of Yugi Moto. Somehow completing the puzzle makes Yugi a master with the card game (which they don’t call “Yu-Gi-Oh!” in the movie), and he becomes world-famous for his prowess.

Then there’s another kid named Kaiba (Eric Stuart) who is jealous and wants to defeat Yugi and take his three Egyptian God cards, which are what he uses to win every game. So Kaiba visits the game’s creator, Pegasus (Darren Dunstan), a swishy millionaire who has some secret card that can defeat even the invincible Egyptian God cards, if you can imagine.

And then somehow Anubis gets unleashed and sort of takes possession of Kaiba, and there’s trouble for Yugi and his friends, I think. It’s hard to be sure, it’s all so frenetic and obscure and unreasonable. The film’s main purpose seems to be to give kids game-playing tips — combinations of cards that can defeat other combinations of cards, when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, that sort of thing. Watching it is vaguely like watching someone explain how to play poker when you have never played it and in fact have no intention of ever playing it.

D (1 hr., 30 min.; PG, cartoon violence.)