My Little Pony: The Movie (PG)
IMDb; Lionsgate; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikia; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Vudu; YouTube
This came out in early fall 2017, between seasons 7 and 8 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, but I didn't see it until early fall 2018, by which time I had already seen most of season 8. I suppose there might be some mild spoilers for the events of the movie in that season, but nothing really worth worrying about. Certainly, when I watched the movie, I didn't feel like I'd been spoiled by the show. Anyway... I think the movie must surely be best enjoyed by people who are already die-hard fans of the TV show, but I see no reason why it couldn't be fairly enjoyable for people who are unfamiliar with the show, too. But I mean, I'm speaking here of regular movie-watchers, not necessarily of movie critics. (I read a little bit on Wikipedia about what critics had to say about the movie, and I know Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rather poor cumulative score.) So, I dunno... maybe it really is harder than I would expect for non-fans to get into. Which I think is a shame. Personally, I feel like it brings a lot of the best qualities of the show, while also being kind of similar to a lot of popular animated movies (mostly of the Disney variety). Maybe that could make it seem too unoriginal, to some people. And I'll admit, even I sometimes thought it was trying a little too hard to be something the franchise is not. But mostly I thought it was a lot of fun. Good songs, good humor, decent animation (definitely a notch above the show's animation, though sometimes I felt the ponies were made even cuter than usual, and their usual level of cuteness is already too much for some people to bear). But mostly I liked the familiar characters, as well as new characters, and I liked the story.
It begins in Ponyville, while preparations are underway for a major Friendship Festival, which of course has Twilight Sparkle, the Princess of Friendship, feeling overwhelmed and full of self-doubt. But of course she has the help of all her friends: Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Spike the dragon. And then the festival's main guest arrives in town, a famous pegasus singer named Songbird Serenade (voiced by famous real life human singer Sia, and incidentally I loved that Songbird's mane was covering her eyes, exactly like Sia's hair does). But before the festival can actually get underway, a massive airship arrives. The first creature to emerge is Grubber... um, I had no idea what kind of creature he was supposed to be, but the internet informs he that he's a hedgehog. Sort of. His job is to introduce the commander of the Storm Guard army, a unicorn named Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt), who is the representative of the movie's main villain, the Storm King (Liev Schreiber). Tempest has a broken horn, which we later learn the Storm King has promised to fix, after Tempest completes her task for him. She has come to steal the magic from Princesses Celestia, Luna, Cadance, and Twilight. The Storm King is to arrive sometime later, and then Tempest would transfer the magic into his staff. She manages to petrify the first three princesses, but Twilight and her friends manage to escape.
Twilight had heard something Celestia was saying to Luna before both of them got petrified, and she sets out to do what Celestia had been telling Luna to do. Unfortunately, Celestia didn't get a chance to complete her instruction, so Twilight didn't get it quite right. But that's not really worth worrying about, because she does eventually figure it out. Meanwhile, she and her friends travel through a desert, then find a city full of unsavory creatures, and are befriended by a sort of anthropomorphic cat named Capper (Taye Diggs). (Capper's design kind of reminds me of the Baron from Whisper of the Heart and "The Cat Returns.") He's the type of character you can pretty much immediately realize is going to betray them and later become a genuine ally, but I didn't mind that being so predictable. Anyway, after promising to help them, he tries to sell them to someone he's in debt to. (I'd really like to know more about that. I would totally watch a completely non-pony prequel about Capper.) But before that can happen, Tempest shows up with some Storm Guards to capture Twilight, whom she needs as the final pony to complete her magic-stealing spell. (Oh, I meant to say... the Storm Guards are apparently the same species as Grubber, but they're a lot bigger than him, and probably less intelligent... though Grubber himself doesn't seem particularly intelligent. He's basically just an evil comic sidekick.) But the ponies and Spike manage to escape yet again.
They then stow away on an airship crewed by anthropomorphic birds. The captain is named Celaeno (Zoe Saldana). They now work for the Storm King, but they're not happy about that. They used to be pirates, and the ponies help them regain their sense of independence... but of course, once again Tempest shows up, so Twilight comes up with a plan to escape again. They then make their way to a mountain where hippogriffs once lived, to seek the help of the queen there, which is what Celestia had wanted. However, they find the mountain abandoned. But they hear some singing, and follow it to a cavern with a pool, where they find a hippocamp named Skystar (Kristin Chenoweth). She dives away when she sees the ponies, but they follow, and get sucked down a whirlpool, and then Skystar befriends them. It turns out she's a princess, and her mother is Queen Novo. It also turns out the hippogriffs had turned themselves into hippocamps to hide out when the Storm King's army had invaded their land, some time ago. So, Twilight asks for Novo's help, but... that doesn't go so well.
Um... beyond this point I really don't want to divulge any more details of the plot. Of course the heroes ultimately beat the villain. (And I should say the Storm King was kind of a fun villain. Mostly he seems kind of goofy, but he can also be intimidating. Though I'm not sure how he managed to be so good at conquest before he had any stolen magic. That might make another interesting prequel.) Anyway... I think it's fair to say there isn't anything particularly surprising or original about the movie, but that doesn't make it any less fun, as far as I'm concerned. Especially if you already love the characters from the show.