Much has changed in Equestria since a string of pastel centauresses first cantered into theaters.
The 1986 original incarnation of My Little Pony: The Movie was a hastily assembled, C-lister-voiced historic flop that's unrecognizable from the glossy new release. Zoe Saldana voices a pirate parrot, there's con cat Taye Diggs, seapony Kristin Chenoworth. Sia not only wrote an original song for the movie, but also voices the character Songbird Serenade.
The ponies' signature visual style has evolved into something like Lisa Frank anime—a swirling pinkish, purply miasma of flattened expressiveness. The underlying mythology has expanded, too. A benevolent monarchy supports the twinkly adventures of Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) and other Mane Six principals.
There's an obvious tot appeal for the inane, song-drenched quest of Twilight and pals to defend their homeland against the Storm King (Liev Schreiber) and his broken-horned hench-unicorn (Emily Blunt).
But MLPTM creators are all too aware they now serve two masters. However kid-friendly the daft plot, its dialogue has been sharpened for a much older, far more cynical clientele. Bronyism hangs heavy over each knowing aside and attempted clever reference. The constant stream of Reddit-baiting badinage can't help but curdle the surrounding ethos of friendship, sparkles and everything nice.
CRITIC'S RATING: 2/4 stars.