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‘Pokémon 2000' tough to sit through

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POKEMON THE MOVIE 2000 —* 1/2 — Animated feature based on the hit Saturday morning cartoon series; starring the voices of Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Ikue Otani and others; also plays with the animated short film "Pikachu's Rescue Adventure"; rated G (animated violence); Carmike 12, Plaza 5400 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16; Cinemark Jordan Landing Theaters; Gateway 8 Cinemas; Loews Cineplex Holladay Center and Trolley Square Mall Cinemas; Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons; Redwood Drive-in (with "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle").

If you ask parents to come up with one word to describe torture, chances are "Pokémon" would be near the top of those lists. And the idea of a full-length movie devoted to these ultra-competitive "pocket monster" characters would likely rank even higher.

But, of course, the same can't be said of the much-younger devotees of the hit television series and the accompanying trading-card game, who embraced the too-violent cartoon film "Pokémon: The First Movie" and made it one of last year's biggest hits.

Thankfully, the follow-up, "Pokémon the Movie 2000," isn't nearly as brutally violent as its predecessor. On the other hand, it's even more cutesy — if that's possible — and, at more than 100 minutes, it's much longer.

In other words, while Pokémon addicts may appreciate this badly animated, confusing but brightly colored mess, their unfortunate parents will likely find it loud, frantic and something of an endurance test.

Like the first film, this one is actually two movies in one.

The main feature is "The Power of One," in which Pokémon trainer Ash Ketchum (voiced by Veronica Taylor) and his friends Misty and Brock must aid the ancient forces of nature.

It seems an evil collector has been capturing the ancient airborne Pokémon Moltres, Zapdos and Articuno and is hoping to use them to draw out the ultimate "prize," the even-more-powerful sea Pokémon Lugia.

But as a result, the three Pokémon are unable to control their separate powers (fire, lightning and ice), and according to ancient prophecy, only Ash can help Lugia and the others recover and save the world.

"The Power of One" is preceded by an animated short, "Pikachu's Rescue Adventure," in which Ash's Pokémon pal and his friends find themselves lost in a foreign land and must make new friends to have any hope of going home.

Frankly, it's hard to say which of the two is more insufferable. While the short has nonsensical dialogue, bad slapstick and too-cute-for-words characters, the story in the feature seems ridiculously padded.

The animation isn't exactly state of the art, either. Despite some digital additions, it is surprisingly crude-looking and gives other Japanese-produced "anime" a black eye. (At times the characters and backgrounds are so poorly rendered that it nearly makes the old "Clutch Cargo" series look dazzling by comparison).

Also, the voice performances are either too shrill or too precious — hearing Pikachu (the voice of Ikue Otani) babble various permutations of his name is a particularly maddening experience.

And although this a less violent film than the first one, it's still pretty violent — the very idea that these characters keep their Pokémon for the purpose of battle still smacks of such forms of animal cruelty as cockfighting.

"Pokémon the Movie 2000" is rated G, though it does contain scenes of animated violence (battles between the various Pokémon characters, as well as some sci-fi violence). Total running time: 102 minutes ("The Power of One": 80 minutes; "Pikachu's Rescue Adventure": 22 minutes).


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com