Lollipop-sweet and rainbow-bright, the four-legged gal pals of Ponyville go clippity-clopping from the small screen to the big in "My Little Pony: The Movie."
With its only slightly scary villain and a more cinematic style of animation, this perky adventure should give a thrill to the littlest fans of the TV show without actually scaring them. The plot introduces a host of new characters and songs and is likely to make more immediate sense to tots than to their parents, but be assured that friendship and goodness will prevail. Buttressed by strong voice talent and amusing bits of business amid the nonstop action and pony personality quirks, the movie lays on the sweet without too much of the sticky. Given the source material, that's not a bad bargain.
"My Little Pony: The Movie"★ ★ ½
Starring: Tara Strong, Andrea Libman, Taye Diggs, Liev Schreiber, Kristin Chenoweth, Uzo Aduba, Emily Blunt
Directed by: Jayson Thiessen
Other: A Lionsgate release. Rated PG. 99 minutes
The movie expands on "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," a series launched in 2010 by producer-animator Lauren Faust as a re-imagining of Hasbro's much older line of toys and spinoff videos.
Director Jayson Thiessen, a veteran of the "Pony" franchise, packs the movie with visual humor, including a particularly droll reference to the myth of the Trojan horse. The film is also a musical, with 13 songs, including "Rainbow," performed by Sia as a pony whose mane covers half her face, in a nod to the pop star's onstage persona. The soft-rock tunes mostly blend into the background, with only one or two, such as Taye Diggs' rendition of "I'm the Friend You Need," catching a bit of a breeze.
The story's pony heroines, known as the Mane Six, are led by the bookish Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong). The rest of the group includes excitable Pinkie Pie, timid Fluttershy (both voiced by Andrea Libman); glamorous Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain), folksy Applejack and fast-flying Rainbow Dash (both voiced by Ashleigh Ball). Yes, flying. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy have wings, and Rarity, like Twilight Sparkle, is a unicorn.
But as these residents of Equestria prepare for a festival, the sky is darkened by the flying ships of a villain called Storm King (Liev Schreiber), who descends from the sky with his acolyte Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt), a unicorn with a broken horn, demanding complete surrender.
Twilight Sparkle and her friends dash off for help from Queen Novo of the Hippogriffs (Uzo Aduba), making a friend in Novo's bubbly daughter (Kristin Chenoweth). Along the way, they meet Capper (Diggs), a cat who's sly like a fox, and a pirate ship manned -- birded? -- by birds of prey and its cockatoo captain (Zoe Saldana).
There's a lesson in here somewhere. The often self-sufficient and solitary Twilight Sparkle learns the importance of depending on friends and making new ones. Cloying, perhaps, not to mention a little long in getting there. But, oh so cute.