*Image from MLP Wikia: original link here*
Now before I start, I want to say that I actually didn't hate the movie, on the contrary it was rather entertaining. I'm going to be fair as possible in this review, because the movie is actually NOT bad in my opinion. In fact, I'd say the IMDB rating is almost spot on at it's current rating (6.5/10).
So let's begin... First let's get through the technical stuff. Animation is top of the list... I'm sorry to say that I was a bit disappointed. It looked like the TV show. Not that the TV show is poorly animated or looks bad, but honestly, this is a feature length film. I'd had hoped they would have put a bit more into it to make it that extra bit special. This however was not the case. What should have looked fantastic, simply looked on par with the TV show animation. Now I know that the beginning and end were intended to be like that, to give the feeling that this was still MLP, but when they changed the setting, I felt that the style should have looked less like Monster High and more like something original that Studio B or someone they hired came up with, with a bit better animation than what they gave us. They should have done better in that regard. On the positive side, it was still like the show. They didn't cut any corners because of the extended length either. The show is always lively, something is always going on in the background, and that was retained. Then again, if they hadn't retained that liveliness I'd have looked on this movie in a much poorer light.
The next technical aspect is sound engineering and SFX. Honestly, I was impressed. There were several nuanced sounds, and sound effects that were added to the mixing board along with some more classic sound effects. Everything was mixed well and put in appropriate places for comedic or whatever effect they were aiming for. It was all actually rather good. They even threw in a transformers soundboard effect for Pinkie in the very beginning.
The voice acting... What can I say? The main cast is fantastic as always, as are the stand in singers. This goes doubly for Rebecca Stoichet who managed to play the villain as well as do a fantastic stand in for Twilight Sparkle as the singer. Is her voice a perfect double for Tara's singing voice? No, but I don't expect it to be, but it is close enough so that it wasn't distracting at all. However, as little of it as there was, I felt the background characters sounded weird at times. Maybe I'm just not used to the voices, but after the third viewing, those few background characters that got a throw away line, just didn't sound right. Flash Sentry was new, but his voice was great, as was Sunset Shimmer. So I know they have the voice talent to make background characters sound less awkward, but that didn't occur. But again, there were so few throw away lines for those characters that it really isn't that big of a deal, unless you count the random chatter from the corridor scenes.
And last but not least music... Steffan Andrews and Daniel Ingram continue to delight. The background music by Andrews always felt right and never out of place. And Ingram managed to write another earworm that will get stuck in your head for hours if not days after watching this movie. Is the music fantastic? Debatable, but comparing to the show, it is at the very least on par. Really this entire movie felt like an episode of MLP. Again, not bad at all, and I was more expecting that than the animation being simply par.
[colour=#ff0000]************SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT***************[/colour]
Now onto the rest of the movie....
Plot wise, this movie was weak, and was pretty much like sliders. Many questions were never answered and there were more plot holes than I care to count. (hence what would be my lower score than I'm sure many would give it) I'm not going to go into too much detail, as much as I can, but here it goes...
So in the beginning of the movie Twilight goes to the Crystal Empire for a princess summit. Understandably she is nervous and unsure of herself (this is actually the overarching theme of the movie which is actually quite good on how they deal with it, and while I hope this movie doesn't become official show canon, I do hope they'll do a similar story arch in the show). Enter Sunset Shimmer. Now I have two problems with this... While it is logical that she would know about the EoH, how did she know about Twilight's? In fact how did she know what the EoH looked like to "make the switch"? It was implied that she was in that world for more than 3 years at the very least! In fact it was loosely implied that she left Celestia's tutelage pretty early on, which would mean that Twilight hadn't been sent to Ponyville yet, which means that the Elements weren't even recovered or reactivated yet! This is the start of the great feats of suspension of disbelief (actually that is one of the lesser ones, as there are others that had me scratching my head worse)... OK so assuming that she somehow knew and left after Twilight and her friends took upon themselves the EoH representations [Which sort of does make sense as it would give her reason to drive them apart in her world], it is an OK start of a plot to enter into a different world. And they give her a time limit with a consequence. A bit cliche, but an effective tactic to create a decent climax later on in the film.
Before we enter the other world we are told that it would upset the balance if all went (which makes sense... dopplegangers and all). However that too begs a question... What happened to Sunset Shimmer's human double? Is she in the city too and just would never appear at CHS? But that I'll take as it is likely a similar reason to Twilight... OK so Twilight enters and Spike follows.
Good thing! She has no idea what she is! And she has no idea how to function as a bipedal organism! This of course leads to high jinks regarding not knowing how to function and a few funny moments. Not knowing what a HS is, what the display cases are, assuming that it had to do with Sunset Shimmer, all things that are likely conclusions when you don't know what is going on. Then she realizes she's wrong and bumps into Flash Sentry. Queue obligatory love interest story. Because after all, what HS movie would be without a love interest? Yeah it is forced, but this was aimed at teenage girls, and younger, so really... it is not only expected but almost a requirement for this sort of movie. And over all I've seen worse....
Queue first song! Not only first song but several first time notable character appearances! I'm pretty sure some of the other background characters were based on background ponies as well. The first song is pretty good. Nitpick? They used "nose" instead of muzzle. But that is a really small nitpick for an otherwise good song. A few funny moments too, and things that I'd believe from HS... like not helping the clumsy girl up. You also see how modern it is with cell phones and the like.
Enter Fluttershy. Repeat of first episode? Pretty much, but it got a smile out of me. You really see that this is the current Twilight and how much she has evolved as a character. I'm not sure she would have acted this way in the first few episodes, especially since she was pretty awkward in the first few, and standing up to and being more forceful with Fluttershy's shyness were really welcome. Yet it pretty much ends the same way, only with Twilight actually being able to talk to Fluttershy... Principle Celestia, knowing about the crown and Twi's obvious awkwardness in these situations are both obvious and entertaining.
The next part is what really annoys me... Why did she just not bring the crown that Sunset Shimmer gave her, tell her that that is the crown that was originally the school's, and show Celestia that the crown they had in their possession looked of actual gold and gem (and thus way over the school's budget). I mean, really? You don't bring the other crown to show that there are two almost identical looking crowns? Though I suppose that would have ended the movie too quickly and easily, so I'll give it a pass, and Twilight's logic in that instance is sound (Though I wonder if Principle Celestia knew about the portal like Princess Celestia did).
More "I have to idea how to act like a human". But at this point they make sense and are somewhat funny! Then enter Pinkie Pie and her odd sense of knowing exactly what's going on. But... it's Pinkie Pie. I'll get into the attitude towards Fluttershy later when it is more relevant. Sunset Shimmer finally gets a decent screen time. And really throughout the entire movie I really start to appreciate her as a villain. She plans ahead and is really a good villain. She isn't exactly Discord, Sombra or Nightmare Moon, but she doesn't need to be. She just needs to be an above average school bully. And she is way above average.
The Trixie scene made me laugh out loud. Seriously probably the singularly funny moment up until this point. From Twilight's position, to Trixie not really caring, and announcing herself as she always does.
The next scene is probably my most hated... This is where I feel they over did the "I'm a pony and don't know how to use hands" bit. By this point she has shown that she knows her hands are the primary means of interacting with things. The computer thing particularly annoyed me, not because she didn't know how to use it and interacted with it strangely at first, but because we saw her use her fingers to interact with the keys, then a second later she uses her fists? Really movie? Be a bit consistent! There is no reason for her to know how to use a keyboard and then not know a few seconds later! CMC at this point reminiscent of show stoppers. Honestly I'd have loved to know what they would have replaced "pony" with. Really everything in this scene except the copy machine bit was a bit grating to me. She was grabbing dozens of books with her hands, then she suddenly decides to use her mouth? I mean... I know habit, but still... it seemed forced and out of place.
The next scene however where we are introduced to Rarity and the following scenes, really is where I feel the movie started to redeem itself (save one major plothole). The movie was fairly entertaining up until this point, but really I feel after the plot hole issue is taken care of and they get together with the YouTube video showing Twi being a derp and/or spaz, it really starts to improve. Now let's talk about this last huge plot hole shall we? So each had an issue with another of the mane 6 counterparts. OK, fine, things happen. But really...? None of them, being friends and all, decided to APPROACH and ASK why they did what they did? If someone showed up to a silent auction with fireworks my first reaction would be to stop, and basically yell at them what they were thinking (or in Fluttershy's case probably just run off crying which should have lead to Pinkie Pie running after asking what was wrong)! Same with not showing up, and same with asking why they told me they didn't need my help (if I was really their friend). I mean, friendship 101 people! Did they just not talk? How do you go that long with those misunderstandings without finding out the truth. The softball thing especially, because surely they were annoyed and talking about it. Gossip travels fast, especially in HS. The whole reasoning why they aren't friends at this point is suspect. I know why they needed to do it, but honestly it felt halfbaked. And I love Meghan McCarthy. She has written some of my favorite episodes. But really I think she could have done better here. But this is really [almost] my last major issue (I have one small one and one large one a bit later).
Finally Rainbow Dash. Hey it only took... half the movie? For your appearance! It isn't like you're an important character, right? (To be honest, I'd have laughed hysterically if AJ was the last one to be introduced given how she gets slated pretty much at every turn with merch) This was actually a pretty good scene overall, and a good entry for the character, and something that I could totally see Rainbow Dash doing.
More lovey stuff, but I'm not annoyed by it! It is actually pretty underplayed compared to others. The focus of the movie is no where near that. And it isn't as forced as others, though still kinda forced. Now, I'm not the biggest Rarity fan, but... I can't help but feel she is the best character of this entire movie. She really feels the most natural of them all, and I really like her scenes the most. She isn't forced or seem too out of character like the rest. Even in that plot hole, her anger seems more genuine and more believable because of her character's inherent flaws. Where as the others, well not so much... (FS and Rarity are the only two who I believe wouldn't make the first move. Rarity because she'd feel slated and FS because she's just too shy).
And the song... OH THIS SONG! This is the biggest earworm of the movie! [Consequently also the best song of the movie] I was cursing Daniel Ingram's name after this song... Seriously, it isn't a great song, but is is incredibly catchy and easy to listen to. The ultimate highlight of the movie, and probably the thing that people will remember most about this movie. Then Sunset Shimmer's plan. I suppose they don't have Photoshop... or perhaps they lack a scanner and had to copy the imposed images over the other? I don't know, but it is at least believable. Again I really have few complaints from this point on.
Tell the truth, good going Spike. This is one of the more "touching" scenes, and again Rarity is the most entertaining one, she really has the best reactions. Then after that we get the second last major song. And I actually think this is the second best one, and has a pretty good message. Though it might be from my times volunteering to help clean up after Super Storm Sandy (really that is what this entire scene felt like, and really that is the feeling you get in that situation, everyone becomes equal and it really is an enormously powerful scene).
Last major song, kinda feels like a variation of Gala song. Also Twilight became a character from Twilight for a second there... (sorry obligatory joke is obligatory)... Twilight of course wins the crown...
And finally the wind down... Spike gets dognapped, and Sunset Shimmer threatens to destroy the portal. I have two issues with this scene. One is a nitpick... Hammer to portal... Wouldn't the hammer just... you know... go through? Twilight's reaction to not knowing what would happen is a good one though. She again really shows her growth. This movie really feels like it could be part of the MLP:FiM universe. The other issue I have is far bigger (but of course it would destroy the climax). During the scuffle over the crown... why didn't Twilight just... you know... throw the crown through the portal? That's how it got to the universe in the first place, so it could have returned the same way, foiling the plans of Sunset Shimmer pretty quickly. But instead of throwing it towards the portal Twilight throws it backwards into her hands.... Needed for the climax but totally nonsensical.
The we have the horrible things and the villain showing true colours (and a design strikingly similar to the Panty and Stocking demons Scanty and Kneesocks only cleaner for kiddies and with a tail for reasons?) Then the obligatory magic of friendship thing and conclusion of the main story. Affirmation of Twilight's ability to lead, and return to Equestria, and sort of alluding to her crush on Flash Sentry...
Conclusion: This was a standard HS movie with some really catchy tunes and more or less formulaic execution. None of that is bad though. This had a pretty decent entertainment value. It was certainly not as bad as I had feared based on the terrible character design choices (which did get better admittedly). Plot was loose, and could have been better, but really the target audience wouldn't care about that, and neither would many Bronies. The characters were fantastic throughout and really felt like individuals while still being based on the pony counterparts. Were there issues in execution for plot reasons? Yes, but again, kids movie, and really the plot holes... well I've seen worse.
This movie was OK! Not good or great by any stretch of the words, nor was it bad or terrible. It was watchable, and really re-watchable for the purposes of this review. As a kids movie, I'd say it was probably well above average, but as a movie standing on it's own, I'd have to say it could have been much better. However considering that Meghan McCarthy and Jayson Thiesson were probably handed this by Hasbro Execs and told "make it work so we can sell Monster High-esque toys" they did a fantastic job.
Would I own this? Probably not, but I really wouldn't mind owning the OST just for the music. Again, I think 6.5 is a really fair score for this movie. It is about average, maybe just above because of the characters. The jokes are overly used and constantly recycled and I really think Meghan could have put a bit more effort into thinking up some varying material, but in the end, it mostly worked.Worth watching? Yes, definitely. Worth owning? Not so much. In the end I'm happy I gave this a fair shake.