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The Movie

An Apology To Yu-Gi-Oh! Fans: After seeing this film, I tried to corner one of my nephews to explain it to me, but all I got out of it was an attack from a Lachrymose Clown with special Bunion enhancements. So I'm soldiering through this review largely in ignorance and 100 fewer life points.

"It wasn't supposed to happen," a narrator intones three times in the first five minutes, "but after five thousand years, it did." So incoherent is this introduction to Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie that I'm still not exactly sure what it is.

Perhaps it is the return of ancient monsters in the form of a card game. Perhaps it is the awakening of an arcane evil determined to play that shadow game to destroy the world. Perhaps it is the young teen Yugi's bizarre hairstyle, or the fact that none of his opponents seem to notice that when he plays the game, he grows at least a foot and his voice drops an octave because he gets possessed by the ghost of an Egyptian pharaoh that inexplicably has the same early Duran Duran taste in clothes.

Subtitled "The Pyramid of Light," this movie really isn't for somebody that doesn't either watch the television show or play the card game (which, if the movie is typical of the show, is pretty much the same thing). But it will startle a lot of parents suddenly dragged into this thing into wondering just what drugs their children are taking.

Scratch that. With the advent of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the next generation doesn't need drugs.

Actually, once the film gets past the set-up which may or may not explain the origin of the game, it has a few charms. The concept of a collectible card game that can be transferred into a 3-D holographic arena is flat-out cool, and it's no wonder that kids have been drawn into this fantasy. I used to have a Nintendo chess game called "Archon" that allowed for the pieces to fight it out, and my roommate and I could play that for hours. So, kids, I get it. But that's not enough to hang a movie on, though I wish someone would invent that arena.

A couple of the characters provide some intentional laughs. Yugi's friends have a typical schoolboy bravado that works for pre-teen slapstick. The inventor of the game (but not the ancient Egyptian invent - poit excuse my aneurysm), listed as Max-a-Million Pegasus, has some funny moments largely based on his obvious alternative lifestyle (all part of the agenda). Retired from the game, Pegasus lounges by the pool in bunny slippers and white-wine spritzers, and is a most unexpected character.

Again, something seems lost in editing or translation, because he makes an offhand reference to having lost his magic eye (an errant lock of hair always covers his left eye), and at one point, Yu-Gi-Oh (the pharaoh version) has a third eye. Something mystical that makes sense to Japanese culture is getting shoehorned into kids' mania, and it doesn't quite work.

The Egyptian "theme" is very loose, with a few obvious elements to cover how little actual research into Egyptology has been done. The writers may have watched Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy to brush up. (Yes, this is an open call for letters telling me how wrong I am.) Though Yugi carries three powerful "Egyptian God Cards," none of those creatures look vaguely Egyptian, nor does the Pharoah. The villain of the piece, Anubis, briefly wears the appearance of the jackal-headed god, but ends up as just another scar-faced thug. If anything, Yu-Gi-Oh! seems to be the story of Captain Marvel if Billy Batson preferred to become a champion of gaming instead of justice.

Half this film spends its time on the game itself, with the Earth as the stakes. When it gives over to playing various strategies, it has a certain logic which almost convince you that it's a plot.

Kids will eat it up, though be warned that Anubis does have an army of rotting, putrescent but animated so it's okay mummies.

It also sledgehammers and crowbars a message about the importance of friendship, which is kind of ironic if you've ever seen kids actually play this game. Or maybe I'm projecting the behavior of us here at Fanboy Planet.


Derek McCaw

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