I got the early word from the grade-school pundits who talk about semiotics, chaos theoryand Quidditch strategy between kickball games. Within months, these guys told me with customary assurance, Pokemon will be, like, so over, that you'll barely notice it existed at all.
Does this mean, I asked, that all those candy-colored critters with the bubble-headed names will be consigned to a corner with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and other discarded playthings of the premillennial generation, left for the postmillennial tykes to bop around and break at will?
Uh, yeah, we guess, they said, before heading off to the mall to see if they could scrounge up any canceled tickets for the 'N Sync tour.
Really, though, it didn't take a grand intuitive leap to sense that last November's jackpot take for "Pokemon the Movie" signaled both an apotheosis of the craze that sold millions of trading cards, plush toys and key rings, and the beginning of its long, slow trip down the pop-phenomenon water slide.
Not even a whole "universe" such as the one regularly depicted on the "Pokemon" Saturday morning TV series can withstand the effect of being chewed and swallowed by a far more omnipresent universe of media saturation and fly-speck attention spans.
After seeing "Pokemon the Movie 2000," the inevitable sequel, one is surprised to say that, if the whole thing is as, like, over, as smarty pants of all ages say it is . . . well, it's kind of sad.
Yes, sad. Because this freshly baked and frosted big-screen "Pokemon" goes down with a sweetness that charms without talking down to its audience.
Moreover, unlike its predecessor ("Pokemon: The First Movie"), "Pokemon 2000" doesn't assume that everyone who sees it will know how to tell Togepy from Balbasaur or Squirtle from Pikachu. Sure, I know now, but I'm not telling because I don't have to.
All you have to know is that there's this avaricious Pokemon collector named Lawrence III who travels the globe in a Jules Verne-like aerial contraption, grabbing and caging whatever Pokemon he can. His latest conquests are three giant, powerful birds, each of which holds dominion over an island named for fire, ice and lightning.
This piracy pitches Earth into meteorological chaos and--wouldn't you know?--the only one who can set things right is that plucky kid Pokemon trainer, Ash Ketchum.
Leaving aside its cheesier jokes (even those made at the expense of its real-life avaricious collectors), "Pokemon the Movie 2000" is better looking and better wrought than its full-length predecessor. OK, so that's not saying much.
But one shouldn't be too hard on a kid franchise that, foaming hype and all, at least tried to persuade its younger audience to be careful with living things that are their responsibility--even if those things are turquoise, orange and purple and shoot fire though their noses.
* MPAA rating: G.
'Pokemon the Movie 2000'
Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Addie Blaustein, Ted Lewis: Various characters
Ikue Otani: Pikachu
Warner Bros. Kids presents a 4Kids Entertainment Production, released by Warner Bros. Directors Kunihiko Yuyama, Michael Haigney. Producer Norman J. Grossfeld. Adapted by Norman J. Grossfeld and Michael Haigney. Original screenplay Takeshi Shudo. Music Ralph Schuckett, John Loeffler. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
In general release.