Typically when reviewing a film like My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, I try to keep in mind the parents that will attempt to grin and bear the experience with their children. Today I find myself in the unique position of having to address the concerns of an additional audience – namely a fanbase. Thankfully, the task at hand is one that actually intrigues me. I too am a self-identified “brony” (or “pegasister”) and love this excuse to “talk shop” regarding the show. Parts of this review will determine how well this movie squares with the My Little Pony universe and the other bits will examine how well this film stands on its own.
A Familiar Trope: Good or Bad?
The premise of Equestria Girls is actually a decent one. Twilight Sparkle (voiced by Tara Strong) is a recently ascended pony princess. As her first act of princesshood, she and her pony friends are summoned to attend a royal summit held by the magnanimous ruler of Equestria Princess Celestia (voiced by Nicole Oliver). Unfortunately the summit goes awry when a pony bent on attaining great power, Sunset Shimmer (voiced by Rebecca Shoichet), steals Twilight’s magic imbued crown. Without her crown, Twilight is unable to channel the Elements of Harmony shared between her and her mare pals. With Equestria’s safety in the balance, Twilight is forced to take a risky journey into the human world.
Where is the familiarity in all this you ask? Well, just as you think you are in for a tale unlike any other, you are catapulted into the overplayed prom queen storyline. The film more or less follows the checklist for this plot mold to a T. A high school lunch room separated by cliques? Check. A haphazard run-in with a potential love interest near the lockers? Check. A dude conveniently playing epic guitar solos whenever needed? Check. Is Equestria Girls still original despite all this? Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes.
Everyone is Still the Same Pony at Heart
The saving grace of Equestria Girls is Twilight’s painful adjustment period in regards to being human. Finding the right balance between having Twilight being an utter alien to this universe and having her fit in like a glove is incredibly tricky. Her clumsy attempts at walking, eating with cutlery, and mashing a computer keyboard is right along the lines of Buster Keaton comedy. It was also rewarding to see that human Twilight still retained her resourceful nature, struggles with anxiety, and desire to defend those she cares for. Thanks to this faithful interpretation of her character, the film provides audiences with the palatable lesson that it’s still ok to be yourself – even if you were a different species to begin with.
Honorable mentions certainly go to the rest of what the fans refer to as the “Mane 6.” Rainbow Dash (voiced by Ashleigh Ball), Applejack (voiced by Ashleigh Ball), Rarity (voiced by Tabitha St. Germain), Pinkie Pie (voiced by Andrea Libman), and Fluttershy (voiced by Andrea Libman) all receive homages to their original pony selves. This comes in the form of references to lines, faces, and scenes that have become quite hallowed in bronydom. The most delightful nod to the ponies’ personalities came through Pinkie Pie’s freaky and incredibly useful psychic abilities. Somehow the My Little Pony writers make Pinkie Pie’s nonsensical style a convenient and comical way to move plots. However, due to the lack of backstory, viewers who are not familiar with the show may find that the human Mane 6 fall flat.
What Will Not Make You Squee
Unfortunately, it is in the introduction of new content that Equestria Girls stumbles. Sunset Shimmer had the potential to be a true rival in terms of magical ability for Twilight Sparkle. In the show’s storyline, this type of challenge occurred with a character known as Trixie (voiced by Kathleen Barr) who turned out to be nothing more than a charlatan. Rather than using her talent to best Twilight, Sunset Shimmer relies on the petty tactics of a high school mean girl for the majority of the film, and lazily poaches the very same lackeys that aided Trixie.
The new musical numbers left me slightly underwhelmed as well. Help Her Win the Crown had a good community feel to it but lyrically paled in comparison to compositions from the television series such as This Day Aria, Winter Wrap Up, and What My Cutie Mark is Telling Me. Other songs in Equestria Girls came dangerously close to being plot filler. Even in episodes like the “Grand Galloping Gala,” The Best Night Ever shared more of a purpose communicating the Mane 6′s dreams of a life changing event as opposed to the lyrics quoted below.
This is our big night! We’re getting ready and we’re doing it up right.
This is our big night! Friendship’s arrived, now we’ll start it out right.
My Little Pony: Equestria Girls certainly passes the test of being a tolerable and eye-gouge free experience. Non-brony parents will get a few chuckles out of the presentation and not be driven to the nearest exit. Those who actively follow the show will also be pleased but may find it an enjoyable fluff piece rather than a series staple. If you are interested to know my final verdict, simply refer to the title above.
Random Observation: Why is Rainbow Dash perplexed by the term “hand” when she has used the word twice before in the series? Episode transcripts – gotta love ‘em!