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'Pokémon Heroes'

The buzz may have receded somewhat. But for every fresh wave of preschoolers showing up for recess, there will presumably be more and more Pokémon creatures to collect and trade unto eternity. (The press notes say there are 251 "confirmed" varieties of Pokémon.)

The Pokémon craze at its peak may have created at least two generations of crazed collectors and traders. But if it hadn't been cardboard coins depicting talking coral, blue kittens or giggling boulders, it would have been bottle caps or zip guns. The source of such obsession is an alternate world where courage, loyalty and responsibility for other living things bring fabulous prizes. If this is a bad world, I'm not sure I want to know another alternative.

So once again, the big screens take in another full-length story of cool kid hero Ash Ketchum and his gallant little yellow pet, Pikachu.

This time there's no beside-the-point accompanying short to confuse newcomers. In fact, for once, they do a good, clean job explaining who Ash is and how he and Pikachu got together in the first place. This sets us up for the matters at hand.

Ash and fellow trainers Misty and Brock are in Altomare, an exotic city of canals, which has enjoyed the spiritual protection of two flying Pokémon lizards, Latios and Latias, who can change shape or become invisible whenever they want. But wouldn't you know, a pair of bratty thieves, Annie and Oakley, have special glasses that can spot a Pokémon anywhere. They want to capture Latios and Latias, who would lead them to a powerful jewel that is not only pretty to look at but pretty powerful as well -- something to do with the contained spirit of the lizards' father, who died long ago while vanquishing a pair of nasty Pokémon monsters who caused the town to be swamped by tidal waves.

If this sounds too weighty for little people to carry in their brains, it isn't. In fact, "Pokémon Heroes" gallops along at a quick, easygoing clip. Grown-ups may have to scrub the sugar from their frontal lobes. But it's not about them, is it? Never was. Never will be.

'Pokémon Heroes'

MPAA rating: G

Veronica Taylor ... Ash Ketchum
Rachael Lewis ... Misty/Jessie/Jigglypuff
Eric Stuart ... Brock/James/Squirtle
Maddie Blaustein ... Meowth

Miramax Films presents, in association with Pokémon USA Inc. and 4Kids Entertainment, a Shogakukan Production Co., LTD O.L.M. production, released by Miramax. Directors Kunihiko Yuyama, Jim Malone. Producers Choji Yoshikawa, Yukako Matsusako, Takemoto Mori, Kathy Borland. Executive producers Masakazu Kubo, Takashi Kawaguchi, Alfred R. Kahn, Norman J. Grossfeld. Screenplay Hideki Sonoda, Jim Malone. Cinematographer Hisao Shirai. Music Shinji Miyazaki. Running time: 1 hour, 12 minutes.

In general release.

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