Second 'Pokemon' improves on first


How weird is it that the villain of "Pokemon the Movie 2000" is a guy whose only crime is that he collects Pokemon?

Pretty weird, given that the billion-dollar Pokemon franchise rests squarely on the backs of hordes of pre-teen Pokemon collectors who will spend every last dollar, and badger every last parent, to possess everything associated with Pikachu and brethren.

But there are worse uses for entertainment dollars. "Pokemon the Movie 2000" will keep kids happy and parents mildly entertained. Better yet, it is - by most accounts, including those of the 12- and 10-year-olds who watched it with me - markedly superior to last year's "Pokemon the First Movie," even if it is no more creatively titled.

A quick tutorial for the uninitiated: Pokemon is short for "pocket monsters." Most speak only one word - Pikachu, for example, can say only "PIKA-chu," while another seems to repeat the word "executor" incessantly. (Maybe he's a probate attorney.) But the creatures are environmentally aware, and have wondrous powers. Now you know.

As was true of its predecessor, this Pokemon installment starts off with a short, in this case the 20-minute "Pikachu's Rescue Adventure." In it, Pikachu and his friends set off to rescue some fellow Pokemon who have fallen down a huge hole. They also are called upon to rescue some Pokemon eggs that are perched in a tree imperiled by a thunderstorm. It's all pretty surreal and fairly pleasant.

The main film, known in Japan as "Lugia's Explosive Birth," features a nasty collector who decides his holdings won't be complete without three Pokemon birds who control Earth's fire, lightning and ice. Heedless of how his actions will affect the planet - badly, according to legend - he captures the first two Pokemon, with potentially apocalyptic results.

"Pokemon the Movie 2000," isn't a prime example of anime, a Japanese style of animation. But it has arresting visuals, especially scenes where the three Pokemon birds are involved. And while the plot is simplistic, it's not dumb - a key difference both adults and children should enjoy.

A word of warning to unsuspecting parents: The movie introduces six new Pokemon, which means your kids have barely begun collecting.

'Pokemon the Movie 2000'

Starring Pikachu and boatloads of other Pokemon

Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama and Michael Haigney

Released by Warner Bros.

Rated G

Running time 84 minutes

Sun score: **

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