The irony of the latest installment in the Pokémon cartoon franchise is that any child young enough to happily tolerate its dull, illogical plot is also likely too young to sit through an entire 80-minute movie. Even by comparison with its four cinematic predecessors, Pokémon Heroes (also known by the descriptive alternate title Guardian Spirits Of The Water Capital: Latias And Latios) doesn't have much to offer viewers who aren't still eagerly awaiting their first adult tooth. As usual, the action centers on irrepressible and none-too-bright Ash Ketchum, a preteen trainer of the highly variable (and marketable) critters known as pokémon. While visiting a shoddily animated Venice-like canal city with his nigh-useless friends Misty and Brock and his electric-mouse-pokémon thrall Pikachu, Ash befriends an unusually powerful pokémon named Latias, one of the city's traditional guardians. Unfortunately, a pair of snotty, improbably coifed thieves named Annie and Oakley want to capture Latias and its sibling Latios for nefarious purposes that become clear just in time to make no sense whatsoever. Diehard pokéfans will surely be thrilled to know that the incompetent antagonists of Team Rocket make pointless comedy cameos in Pokémon Heroes; everyone else will be dozing off as Ash runs around endlessly among computer-animated backdrops and Latias and Latios communicate their glee, anger, or terror through a punishing barrage of indistinguishable shrieks. Pokémon Heroes features fewer gratuitous pokéfights than its precursors, and also lacks a dutifully over-repeated moral, but it doesn't replace these Pokémon staples with anything substantive. Half the time, Heroes just feels like it's twiddling its animated thumbs and periodically checking its watch. With the increasing availability of Japanese animation series on American TV and in theaters and video stores, anime fans have more choices than ever. There's no reason for any of them to choose Pikachu and this cheerful but half-hearted mess.
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