With a similarly simplistic moral, the main feature, subtitled "The Power of One," is none too subtle in its message that a single person (in this case passionate Pokémon trainer Ash) can make a world of difference. Of course, this platitude is painted in much broader strokes than normally apply in real life, as Ash must risk his hide to recover three treasures that, when placed in proper alignment, will quell three titan Pokémon who rule the elements and threaten to destroy the Earth when they are thrown into disharmony.
Naturally, there is a greedy human villain behind the chaos. Lawrence III, an obsessive collector, flies around acquiring treasures in an eerie propeller-driven aircraft (one of several sophisticatedly animated segments that are oddly juxtaposed with "Pokémon's" rudimentary but cheery and beloved Crapanimation). This time he's after a legendary Pokémon--despite the fact that its capture will result in the end of all life. Standing amidst his ill-gotten gains, the destructively selfish Lawrence reflects, "I began my collection with a Mew card, and now I have all this," in an amusing nod to the property's own role in inciting excessive accumulation.
It seems that the makers of the "Pokémon" movies feel that the bigscreen transition requires the transmogrification of the spirited, imaginative and humor-filled cartoon into cautionary tales threatening genocide at every turn. The relatable if fantastical scenarios and colorful mythos of the TV version are supplanted by larger-than-life quests that are moderately engaging but not nearly as interesting as Ash and company's usual antics. Bottom line: Stop trying to make "Pokémon" a bildungsroman, and give Jigglypuff et al. more face time. Voices by Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Addie Blaustein and Ikue Otani. Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama and Michael Haigney. Written by Takeshi Shudo. Produced by Norman J. Grossfeld. A Warner Bros. release. Animated. Rated G. Running time: 101 min