Netflix for Kids is VODzilla.co’s monthly column that sends a grown man without kids into the barrel of the streaming service’s kids catalogue and searches for morsels of goodness at the bottom. Today, we tackle My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.
My Little Pony, eh? As a child of the 80s, my only real awareness of the Hasbro figures were those five jauntily-jingled syllables that announced what was likely to be a toy advert during children’s TV shows. It was a big deal back in the day, apparently, spawning a film and a number of series over several incarnations and decades. In 2017, there’s an actual movie coming out with actual stars Zoe Saldana and Emily Blunt. But as far as the Pony Extended Universe goes, my first ever exposure to it comes in the shape of 2013 feature My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.
Regular fans of the Netflix for Kids column will know that Nathanael Smith each month masochistically watches a potentially abysmal children’s film that’s available on Netflix. Unavailable this month, he specifically asked for me to fill in for him, doing his best to choose what he thought could be the most heinous kiddie effort the ‘flix had to offer, leading to that warm glow that comes from knowing one of your closest friends wants you to suffer.
Friendship Is Magic is the overall name for the current Pony incarnation, and no quarter is given to newbs, as we’re thrown straight in to Equestria Girls like it’s the next instalment of a series and not a movie. There’s certainly a feel that this feature could have been stitched together from a number of episodes, and the flat, one-dimensional backgrounds and static frame definitely give it the whiff of strictly TV-standard animation.
Telekinetic princess-pony slash unicorn (nothing odd so far) Twilight Sparkle is worried about becoming a princess, but before she can get too dismayed by her royal duties, someone steals her crown. Someone steals her crown, people, and so something must be done. This involves Twi being sent through a magic mirror into the human world to retrieve or it will be used for all, like, evil and stuff. Crown-nabber Sunset Shimmer wants to use its power to… well, because it’s powerful. And, also, spoilers.
Rocking up at a high school in girl-form, Twilight Sparkle has three days to get the crown back, or she’ll be trapped in the human world for 30 moons. From there, it largely plays out as a horse-out-of-water high school comedy where no one questions that she’s purple, probably because many of them are green or blue themselves. Twi doesn’t know what a girl is, but her dragon pal, Spike, turns into a dog and seems to know what a dog is and that they shouldn’t talk to humans. Cute anthropomorphism, yes. Logic, not so much.
If you can get past the bland look and fairly uninspired plotting, there are one or two moments of actual wit and charm, and a certain zip to it, despite the lack of texture. Most importantly, there’s nothing insidious at work here, no focus on vapid details, such as clothes or popularity. ‘Be nice to people who aren’t like you’ is its central message, along with celebrating the power of friendship (hear that, Nathanael?) and looking beyond the cliques and surface differences to the person/unicorn below.
It’s just a shame that much of this comes across in horribly auto-tuned musical montages. Still, since it’s likely there will be more six-year-old girls than 40-year-old men watching this – one would assume – it’s not the worst.
My Little Pony: Equestria Girls is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.