My Little Pony the Movie review: A cartoon feminist fairytale for pop-culture aficionados (and kids)

My Little Pony: The Movie, 2017.

My Little Pony: The Movie, 2017.

A still from My Little Pony: The Movie, 2017.

A still from My Little Pony: The Movie, 2017.

MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE ?????????
(G) 105 minutes

The runaway success of the TV cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is a phenomenon that would gladden the heart of a far-out science-fiction writer like the late Philip K. Dick.

Launched in 2010 to promote the relaunch of a line of pony toys from the 1980s, the show soon developed a massive cult following of all ages.

Two feature-length documentaries have so far been devoted to the subculture of adult male fans, known as "bronies"; the morbidly curious can find details on the internet, if they dare.

With its elaborate mythology and strenuously knowing innocence, My Little Pony: The Movie - the work of the same team who brought us the show, including director Jayson Thiessen and current head writer Meghan McCarthy - is one for the 2017 time capsule.

The ponies, who all have large sparkling eyes and multicoloured manes, live in the magic land of Equestria, which functions as a "girl power" matriarchy (male ponies exist, but are confined to cameos).

As the vaguely occult Friendship Festival is getting underway, evil descends on this utopia in the form of the rogue pony Tempest Shadow (voiced by Emily Blunt), a unicorn with a broken horn who has joined forces with the blustering Storm King (Liev Schreiber).

So it is that the heroine Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) and her friends are forced to leave their city of Canterlot on a mystical quest that will carry them into the skies and under the sea before order is restored.

It's an epic subject, and beneath its sugary surface the film offers itself as a guide for little girls on how to navigate the world that lies before them, stressing the need for female solidarity above all.

Some of the meanings are adult in a barely disguised way: the secondary characters include a sleazy cat named Capper (voiced by Taye Diggs) who dresses like a pimp, plots to sell the ponies into slavery and is given his own musical number to drive home the message that self-proclaimed male allies are not always worthy of trust.

Is My Little Pony: The Movie nourishment for the imagination, or junk food? A sincere feminist fairy tale, or a cynical merchandising grab?

The answer can only be "all of the above". In any case, the film is recommended to all serious students of today's rapidly mutating pop culture - and, a little more tentatively, to children as well.

This story My Little Pony the Movie review: A cartoon feminist fairytale for pop-culture aficionados (and kids) first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.