The Powerpuff Girls, Dance Pantsed, review

Review Tony Sokol 1/20/2014 at 9:16PM

The Powerpuff Girls reboot renders them auto-tuned, muted and much less brilliant.

It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the reboot of The Powerpuff Girls, just like my ears had to get used to Ringo Starr’s autotuned voice on “I wanna be a Powerpuff Girl” single. But then I saw Ringo in his cute yellow dress and just went for it. It’s not that I grew up with the Powerpuff Girls. I was fully an adult when I got hit with that chemical reaction. It was more like a second childhood and, of course, not watching horrible children’s TV with my own kids. It was more than bearable. It was fun and Craig always threw in references to keep everyone chuckling.

The Powerpuff Girls started off as the Whoopass Girls in a 1992 cartoon short called “Whoopass Stew!” by animator Craig McCracken. It ran on the Cartoon Network from 1998-2005.

The Powerpuff Girls, three kindergarten superheroes named Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, were created in the lab by Professor Utonium. The Professor mixed sugar, spice and three blind mice, no, refried rice? No. Bad head lice? No. Everything nice. Due to a lab accident, an unknown element was added to the concoction for the perfect little girl: Chemical X. That little science experiment yielded three perfect little crime-fighting superheroes who had to be in by bedtime.

Ringo Starr is no stranger to cartoons himself. He starred with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison in the sixties Beatle Cartoons as well as Yellow Submarine and Harry Nilsson’s The PointThe Powerpuff Girls had an episode called "Meet the Beat-Alls" with thousands of in-jokes and references. Here Ringo plays Fibonacci Sequins, "Townsville’s most famous flamboyant mathematician," one of Townsville, USA’s most notable notables, along with famous opera singer Wendy Bags and the rare Calcutta stink badger who was stopping in town briefly. Sequins invented the Fibonacci sequence and, a man after my arithmetically-challenged heart, declares “math is a mystery.”  

The three Townsville titans are taken by a giant robot and the girls are called in to save the town. Bubbles is thrown into the world’s largest pillow, but recovered to join her sisters in freezing, breaking and burning the robot without harming the hostages. Of course they do. Easy as cupcakes. What do you think they are, kindergarteners? Mojo Jojo, of course, is behind it. He threatens to destroy Townsville and everyone laughs because they’ve heard this before.

I had high expectations. I was disappointed. My daughters were also disappointed and their expectations had been lowered by a Powerpuff Girls special a few years ago. Once my eyes adjusted to the faux 3D, I realized that the colors were muted. The brilliant colors of the original series were toned down. But more than that, everything was toned down. The episode still has the rapid-fire dialogue of the classic series, but the wit is dulled. Sadly, it’s still funnier than most network sit-coms.

Say it isn’t so. Even the characters are altered. Buttercup cries at Blossom’s Vince Lombardi moment, rallying the girls to Threedom. Buttercup doesn’t cry. She is the spice of the Powerpuff Girls. She’s a little bitter. She doesn’t like broccolinis because it’s for weenies. Seeing Buttercup cry may not be as traumatic as seeing James Cagney cry in Angels With Dirty Faces, but it is still a jolt. Almost as much as seeing Bubbles stay home to play while her sisters save the town without her. Okay, so they only had to get down a pickle jar for the Mayor, but still, she wasn’t there. And the Mayor had to forego his daily vinegary confection.

The Soul Hayride was a flashback to the “Boogie Frights” episode but I didn’t once feel like I should get down and shruti. Even less so after the episode altered Powerpuff canon. Professor Utonium became The Professor because of a time-traveling Mojo Jojo, not as a newcomer to Townsville wanting to shake his money maker (and the Professor is a Monkey Maker as well). I would have liked to have seen Steven Hawking crump, though. The Professor resisted getting the Powerpuff Girls the Dance Revolution video game, but is helpless in the face of a power tantrum, which can cause as much damage as anything that might come out of Monster Island.

Phase Two of Mojo Jojo’s multiphase plan is a break dance that is broken, but who knew Miss Bellum was so ripped? The Powerpuff Girls do save the day. But I didn’t feel the urgency. The reboot may limp forward, and I hope it does, but the jokes have to get resuscitated. The Powerpuff reboot needs those paddles to jump-start it. I want more. But I want better. "Dance Pantsed" had all the original voice actors: Catherine Cavadini, Tara Strong, Tom Kenny, E.G. Daily, Tom Kane, and Roger L. Jackson.

Den of Geek Rating: 2.5 Out of 5 Stars

 

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Without Craig McCracken's guiding hand, it was definitely a miss...

I found your review before watching the episode, and went into it with lowered expectations as a result. I actually ended up being really happy with Dance Pantsed, though, from the new art style to the writing, so I have to disagree with your take on it.

The animation quality seemed to be on par with the 2002 movie, only with more 3D models in play, and it was all very fluid without being that level of overly-fluid that computer animation can achieve. The character redesigns seemed mostly conservative, with the girls themselves being the biggest departure, and yet I really liked the end result. The rest of Townsville and its inhabitants looked completely in line with the classic series all the way up through the 2002 movie, otherwise. Also, the movie had that same muted color palette, which I thought really made it stand out stylistically, and I still liked it here.

In my opinion, the writing for Dance Pantsed was great. I enjoyed the girls establishing the theme of teamwork early on, just like how classic episodes would always quickly establish an underlying theme, and how that theme was tested and resolved. You mentioned Bubbles not going to save the day, but that was because she was heavily distracted by a dancing game - something important to the plot - and I felt like that wasn't out of character at all for her (this is the girl who beat up Fuzzy Lumkins for turning her hair into meat; for her to be obsessed with a dancing game is right in line for her character). Meanwhile, Buttercup's crying at Blossom's rallying speech looked more like a gag than Buttercup actually crying, and I don't think it was meant to be interpreted seriously (and why wouldn't Buttercup be moved by a rallying speech with the purpose of getting the girls out the door to kick some butt?). There were other great little absurd moments that I thought were just good classic Powerpuff stock, like the Professor's dance memories, his humming a theme song and making sound effects while accessing his lab, Mojo Jojo popping out of completely random spots while watching the girls fall into his trap, and that ridiculous dance-off at the end. The inclusion of a fashionable scientist named 'Fibonacci Sequins' and the bit about the group of scientists urging the Professor to give up dancing for science because 'your name is Utonium, after all' seemed like all classic stuff to me, too.

If this is actually the pilot for a continuation of the series and this is the low bar for quality, then I think what's yet to come could be fantastic. I feel like this really could have been one of the classic episodes had it been animated in the old art style way back in the late 90s, but otherwise I'm really liking the update and would love to see more.

I felt like airing the "See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey" episode on t.v instead of this reboot would have been a way better move. Too bad it's banned from the U.S.A :[ I was so disappointed that I wasn't even into the danced pantsed episode after 15 minutes.

You forgot to mention that they gave Blossom's ice breath to Bubbles, in the original series, only Blossom had Ice Breath-- it was her special power (Bubbles could speak any language and Buttercup was the only one in Townsville who could curl her tongue). And I'm irritated by that, the original series literally had an episode dedicated to Blossom developing her Ice Breath, so the changing of powers shows couldn't have been a simple mistake.