Saturday, 5 December 2015

My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Friendship Games

When My Little Pony was hurled into the 21st Century by Lauren Faust, people stood up and took notice. And then got told by their kids that while they were up, can they go and buy them the toys right now. The franchise was transformed from somewhat generic girly fluff to a modern kids' show that just happened to be mostly appreciated by little girls (bronies? Not going there). In 2013, the 'Equestria Girls' movie introduced human versions of the characters; such was its success another EG film – Rainbow Rocks – followed. And now, in the space year 2015, out now on Blu-Ray and DVD we have a third movie featuring the unholy fusion of pony and man; Friendship Games.

The first two movies saw Princess Twilight Sparkle travel to an alternate world, where she met and had adventures with the alternate universe versions of her friends. The third film finally throws the alternate Twilight – who has been investigating what she doesn't realise is Equestrian magic – to the fore. The basic premise runs thus: Alternate Twilight is a geeky and awkward girl, who fails to fit in at her school (Crystal Prep) and has resigned herself to solitude. She ends up at Crystal Prep's rival school Canterlot High during the e(pony)mous Friendship Games where, of course, the alternate versions of pony Twilight's friends go. She ends up interacting with pony Twilight's friends, stuff happens, magic out of control, yadda yadda yadda, something something power of friendship, roll credits. It's as weak as it sounds, and that's the problem; the first two movies rose above their similarly uninteresting synopses. 

The regular MLP actors return, including the omnipresent Tara Strong as whichever version of Twilight you happen to be talking about. They all put the effort in, and it must be said that Pinkie (Andrea Libman) is far and away the star of the show here. Everything about the character – the acting, the writing, the animation – elicits uncontrollable smatterings of laughter whenever the script demands it. These moments are too few and far between though, and serve only to highlight how drab the rest of the experience is.

It's difficult to say why the film falls so flat for the majority of its running time. It's tempting to point out that while the script for the overwhelmingly female cast was written by a woman (Meghan McCarthy) for the first two films, this one is written by a man (Josh Haber). While both have experience in the writing of the Friendship Is Magic TV series, handing the reins of a feature-length tale to Haber doesn't seem to have worked out so well.

Pinkie aside, the elements that manage to stand out do so for the wrong reasons. Twilight's awkwardness is reinforced by some mild bullying from her classmates, and an apparent inability to walk in a straight line without falling over or bumping into something. None of the bullies see any consequences for their mean words or attitudes, either; this threatens to send the rather unpleasant message that Twilight's pariah status is entirely her own fault. The movie's ending is, arguably, a lazy replica of the first film's conclusion – and one that doesn't link in terribly well to all that has happened before. More generally, the songs (of which there are several) are just as weak as the rest of the film, and therefore instantly forgettable. This is even harder to explain than the script, as Daniel Ingram is again at the musical wheel – and Rainbow Rocks actually has a pretty good soundtrack. There, I said it.

I might not be the target market here, but the nail in the coffin is that of my three young girls, two lost interest before the end of the film, and none have asked to watch it again. Nor have they been singing any of the songs, or looking them up on YouTube. Case closed.

Not sure you should pony up the money for this. 2/5.


Luke Kemp

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