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Two short years ago, the term "Pokemon" was one of the top-ten words entered into Internet search engines - an accurate indicator of what's hot in techno-land. This week, the little Japanese critters are nowhere to be found in the top 300 words - replaced by pragmatic surfers looking for "maps," "hotmail," and "weight loss."
That may account for Miramax's decision to limit the number of opening screens for this, the fourth retread of the usual Pokemon adventure. Ash Ketcham (voiced by Veronica Taylor) plays his familiar part of Pokemon trainer and protagonist along with his friends Misty (Rachel Lillis) and Brock (Eric Stuart). Not far behind and hoping to stir up some trouble is Team Rocket, made up of Jesse and James (also voiced by Lillis and Stuart) and their frazzled feline-like creature Meowth.
Embarking on a typical day of searching for Pokemon in the forest, Ash, Misty, and Brock are surprised to discover a young lad named Sammy and an injured Pokemon called "Celebi." Possessing the power to travel through time, it appears Celebi has brought the boy from the past in an attempt to evade a Pokemon hunter. Determined to renew Celebi's strength, the gang travels to a mystical lake with healing water. Along the way, they meet up with an entirely new enemy from the future. With his "Dark" Pokeball, this formidable foe is able to transform passive Pokemon into giant evil monsters.
Whether in danger, or just for fun, Ash yearns for dueling opportunities for his Pokemon- portraying a cockfighting mentality - that always leaves me confused as to the "peaceful" nature these creatures are declared to have. When opponents come on the scene, the conflicts intensify, culminating in a huge monster made of trees and forest debris. This bad-guy creation may be frightening for very young viewers.
Yet Ash does value friendships and seeks cooperation among his young human peers as they battle the enemy and provide a thread of environmental awareness. With no profanities and only the mildest of sexuality (the leggy girls have the typical Japanese animation wardrobe), this adventure may still be suitable for your diehard trainers, even if adults find it overly Pokey.
Pokemon 4Ever is rated G: