Out with the hand drawn-animated ponies, in with their creepily-anthropomorphized, digitally-animated brethren: the “new generation,” if you will, which includes not only ponies but Pegasi and unicorns from all over Equestria. This “My Little Pony” movie takes a contemporary spin on the franchise’s tot-friendly tenets of love and friendship by staging a political awakening about tolerance, prejudice, even fascism — sweetened, of course, with musical numbers, cutesy gags, and pastel vistas.
In “My Little Pony: The Next Generation,” directed by Robert Cullen and José L. Ucha, earth ponies are anti-magic (read: anti-science) and prone to fear mongering. Except for our enlightened heroine, Sunny Starscout (Vanessa Hudgens), who crashes a demonstration led by, essentially, a defensive weapons manufacturer who profits from a community comically afraid of being attacked by other ponylike creatures.
The panic is obviously unwarranted when a ditsy unicorn, Izzy (Kimiko Glenn), comes on the scene. Sunny whisks her new pal away to safety, unfolding a learning tour that shows just how silly and retrograde the beliefs cultivated by their separate communities about the not-so-scary “other” actually are.
In search of sacred objects that might restore magic in Equestria, Sunny and Izzy assemble an eclectic team of progressive youngsters — including a tomboyish Pegasus and her social-media obsessed sister — while back in earth pony-land, Sprout (Ken Jeong), a crimson demagogue with a bleach-blonde mane, ascends to power.
However generic (just this year, “Raya and the Last Dragon” depicted a similar treasure hunt geared toward bringing together diverse groups), the film’s messaging about unity and the need for a new generation to band together against misinformation and rabble rousing isn’t the worst thing. At the same time, parents might get a kick out of the film’s surprisingly unsubtle references to American politics — something to numb the pain of watching yet another “My Little Pony” movie, which the kiddies will demand whether you (or I) like it or not.
My Little Pony: A New Generation
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. Watch on Netflix.
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