Once upon a time, just as American skies were being cluttered with TV signals, there was a cartoon factory called United Productions of America. UPA, as it was known, made hip little films such as "Gerald McBoing Boing" that taught generations of animators they needn't get fancy to make cartoons that were smart enough for adults without going over children's heads.
Now what, you may ask, does this have to do with "The Powerpuff Girls Movie," a big-screen treatment of a popular TV animated series for kids? A couple of things: The first is that "Powerpuff Girls" and other animated series hatched on cable TV's Cartoon Network wouldn't have existed without the example set by UPA way back in the 1940s and 1950s.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 04, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 9 inches; 331 words Type of Material: Correction
Powerpuff Girls--"The Powerpuff Girls Movie" heroines are Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup. A review in Wednesday's Calendar omitted Buttercup's name by repeating Blossom's.
And it seems like too long a time since there's been a big-screen animated feature for kids that had the jazzy design and cheeky wit of those long-ago UPA shorts. "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" has the fizzy tang of a vintage pop beverage whose taste we'd forgotten.
If this movie were a comic book, it would be called "Powerpuff Girls: The Origin Issue." For faithful viewers of the series, this means a fleshed-out--no, check that--more detailed version of how Professor Utonium (voice by Tom Kane), depressed by the crime and malaise shrouding the city of Townsville, decided to create the Perfect Little Girl from--what else?--sugar, spice and everything nice. A rambunctious lab monkey causes Chemical X to spill into the blend, causing a huge explosion.
In its wake, three saucer-eyed little angels with no hands and no feet stare at the professor like baby chicks gazing at their mother. Blossom (Cathy Cavadini) is the pretty-in-pink forthright one. Bubbles (Tara Strong) is the baby-blue cuddlebug. Blossom (Elizabeth Daily) wears green and, judging from her pugnacity, accounts for most of the spice. All three have superpowers that, at first, get them and their creator-guardian in deep trouble within Townsville.
Their troubles are just starting. The aforementioned explosion also affected that aforementioned lab monkey, his brains bloated to diabolically intelligent proportions. Forgotten by the professor, the monkey, now known as Mojo Jojo (Roger L. Jackson), cons the girls into helping him with a plan to empower his fellow apes with big brains and malevolent intentions. Even those who can guess how it all turns out get caught up in writer-director Craig McCracken's story of redemption.
Advance Powerpuffs knowledge may help get in the groove, but either way, "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" has the right mix of sugar and spice for a satisfying rush.
Gene Seymour is a film critic for Newsday, a Tribune company.
MPAA rating: PG, for nonstop frenetic animated action. Times guidelines: OK for everybody.
'The Powerpuff Girls Movie'
Roger L. Jackson...Mojo Jojo
Tom Kane...Professor Utonium
A Cartoon Network production, released by Warner Bros. Director Craig McCracken. Producer Donna Castricone. Executive producers Craig McCracken, Brian A. Miller. Written and storyboarded by Charlie Bean, Lauren Faust, Craig McCracken, Paul Rudish, Don Shank. Animation director Genndy Tartakovsky. Editor Rob DeSales. Music James Venable. Art director Mike Moon. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
In general release.