Warner Bros. Animation (2016), Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (August 15th, 2017), 1 DVD, 132 minutes plus supplements, 16:9 1.78:1 ratio, English 5.1 Dolby Audio, rated TV-Y7, Retail: $9.96
So, once again, the day…is not quite saved, as Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup return to do very little saving of the world before bedtime.
The Sweatbox Review:
Earlier this year, I gave the first DVD volume of the so-called “reboot” of The Powerpuff Girls a more or less favorable review, saying that it ultimately won me over with its rapid-fire humor even as I had a fair number of issues with it. Alas, with the second home video release, my goodwill towards the series is starting to diminish. The Powerpuff Girls is quickly showing danger signs that it’s eventually going to become the mess that everyone feared it would be when it was first announced. Not only is it still depending on the viewer having seen the original version in order for it to make any sense, but it’s also rejecting almost everything that made that show such a brilliant hit in the first place. If the 90’s Powerpuff Girls was revolutionary for its sophisticated comedy and its portrayal of its female leads, then the new one is essentially fitting into the “throw a bunch of random jokes at the screen and see what sticks” mold that dominates the majority of Cartoon Network’s programming these days.
And, as I’ve said in the past, there’s nothing necessarily “wrong” with that. It’s a formula that’s worked for the cable channel with regards to both their children’s and Adult Swim lineups, so on paper applying it to one of their breakout hits from the past might sound like a good idea. The problem–at least on the majority of the twelve episodes included on this disc–is that the approach proves to be more restricting than liberating here. That’s not to say there aren’t still giggles, because there are, but when you compare it to what came before–which the series is constantly daring you to do, since it continues to apparently exist in “the same world” as the original cartoon despite being a “relaunch”–too often it falls short.
It took me a while to decide what was “off” about these episodes, with the best comparison I can think of being that they play like SpongeBob SquarePants after its fourth season. The gags are there, but many of them don’t land, and while there’s occasionally an episode that works, there are others which become a borderline chore to sit through. It’s an odd feeling when you’re chuckling at something but still not exactly “enjoying” it (Shrek the Third, I’m looking at you!), but that’s the frustrating sensation I got when I was wrapping up this disc. I had laughed, but I wasn’t satisfied, but what makes everything worse is that the people involved don’t even appear to be trying very hard here. In the last disc, I discussed how this reboot might be “too similar” to the original for its own good, but now I’m thinking that it has the exact opposite problem. There is no apparent desire to be like The Powerpuff Girls here. In fact, if Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup weren’t the stars here, then there would be virtually nothing to connect it to that series!
Case in point: the trio do virtually no crime fighting here. Instead, they get involved in one “bizarre” situation after another, whether it’s all of them turning old or Buttercup becoming obsessed with killing a lobster. Sure, they still battle a monster or two, and old faces do show up from time to time (Mojo Jojo, even when he only appears for a cameo, is always good for a smile), but most of the time they are dealing with school life or other matters not involving saving the planet. For better or for worse, this does lead to what is easily the best episode one the disc, one in which Blossom and Princess Mobucks compete to win a class election. Mobucks is one of the few villains from the original series to get a spotlight here (along with “Him”), and the reboot handles her “evil Little Orphan Annie” personality well, but the real highlight here is an overly polite politician boy who is one of the funniest parodies of Barack Obama I’ve ever seen, right down to his vocal mannerisms. It’s amusing stuff, even if it ultimately doesn’t have much to do with The Powerpuff Girls.
Unfortunately, this “no saving the world before bedtime” format also sets up what is by far the worst episode on the disc, Once Upon a Townsville, one which I was surprised by how much I hated, which is something I’ve never had to say about this franchise before now. Basically, a fairy tale princess falls down a wishing well and finds herself in the middle of a modern day city, and…yeah, what they’re doing here is ripping off Enchanted, which is an odd choice since that movie itself was already a parody (albeit a fairly gentle one). Why spoof the spoof? The girls meet the princess, and there are some songs (you know, like in Enchanted), and Buttercup tries to convince her that she should save herself instead of waiting around to be saved (you know, like in Shrek). I’m not even sure who this episode was made for, as the various swipes at Disney–which are almost shockingly unfunny–don’t feel earned since they haven’t had a so-called “damsel in distress” heroine in decades. Basically, this episode includes everything that doesn’t work about the reboot, including feminism which places itself directly in the face of the audience instead of playing out naturally like in the original cartoon.
“The original cartoon” is something I feel I’ve come back to too frequently during this review, but again, the series doesn’t have any interest in “separating” itself from that landmark show, always making the assumption that the audience is familiar with it. This means the viewer is going to be pretty freaking confused when “Him” makes an appearance (which is, to be fair, quite welcome) if they haven’t seen the first Powerpuff Girls, and there are other examples which are far too numerous to mention here. Making things more confusing is that there’s an apparent lack of continuity, as sometimes the girls are still in kindergarten while other times they appear to be in grade school.
There is some fun to be had here, though, including an episode in which the girls face off against a school janitor as well as the aforementioned election escapade. But if the series is going to keep going, it’s going to have to learn how to breathe on its own without also setting aside the very reasons it’s around in the first place. Otherwise, there may be no saving it.
Is This Thing Loaded?
The Powerpuff Girls: The Last Donnycorn arrives on disc with five shorts which were used to promote the series before it aired. In many ways, these are a bit more amusing than some of the episodes on here, with the girls engaging in destructive games of ping-pong and Bubbles attempting to do a beauty vlog. Each runs about three minutes. No trailers are included.
Here we have a standard white plastic case with no slipcover. On my copy, at least, the words “DISC MADE IN MEXICO” were stamped extremely prominently over the tech specs for some reason. Inside an insert promoting the new Ben 10 reboot can be found.
Ink And Paint:
As is the norm, The Powerpuff Girls is a brand new show, so it looks perfectly fine on disc. I didn’t find this quite as sharp as the first Powerpuff Girls DVD I reviewed, but colors are nevertheless very crisp, with nothing major to complain about.
Again, everything is fine. Nothing overly fancy (this is a children’s DVD), but satisfying all the same. No alternate language tracks are included.
Unlike the recent (and superior) Ducktales, the new Powerpuff Girls is continuing to play out like a quasi-sequel to the original series rather than a full reboot. There is, despite all of my negativity in this review, some hilarity to be found here (I have to appreciate any cartoon that somehow finds a way to parody student films), and kids should at least be pleased with it. Having said that, the subversive humor of the original is almost nowhere to be found here, and apart from the shorts, the disc has no other extra features. There’s news that the reboot is going to add a fourth Powerpuff Girl to the mix to liven things up (presumably it won’t be the dearly departed “Bunny”), but that’s not going to be enough on its own to keep this series afloat. It’s not a sunken ship yet, but it could be in need of some rescuing.