Friday, September 18, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake - Sky's the Limit!

So, the long-awaited 2009 Revamped Strawberry Shortcake movie has finally been unleashed on the world, and while it isn't the most awesome ever (frankly, I wouldn't have expected it to be), it does has a number of fun scenes a couple of forgettable songs, and one that will not leave your head no matter what you do.

Welcome to Bitty Berry Land
The movie opens with the same shots from the pilot episode reanimated using a bluebird this time. Instead of getting a birdseye tour of Berry Bitty City, though, the bluebird catches up with Strawberry Shortcake on the Goodies- to-Go Scooter, making a visit (with Pupcake in tow) to the BerryWorks, where the Berrykins turn berries into the juice that powers everything in the city. With the arrival of Strawberry, the Berrykin Queen Princess announces the beginning of Berry Picking Time, which heralds a song and dance from Berrykins and Strawberry alike. After the song, Strawberry candidly comments, "What would we do without berry juice?" Although she obviously meant this to be rhetorical, the Berrykins are quick to point out that without the juice, there'd be no power for the whole city, a situation most dire. Strawberry brushes off their concerns and rides back into town.
Back at the cafe, Orange Blossom has commissioned some Berrykins to build a fountain, which she proudly shows off to the others. Blueberry's a little skeptical that the Berrykins can build a working fountain, but Orange rebuffs her with her own words:
Orange: You know how you're always saying, "Before you can, you need a plan?"
Blueberry: Do I say that?
Plum, Lemon, Raspberry: Yeah!!
The plan Orange put together is not a blueprint, but a drawing of her, Strawberry, and the fountain. Lemon tries to dissuade Orange with her worries that someone will fall in, but Raspberry takes that idea and runs with it, coming up with a number of different ideas on how to keep that from happening (ranging from adding life preservers to making the fountain a skating pond), with the Berrykins running around in the background, trying to make her ideas a reality.
Inside the cafe, Custard shows off her ability to run the blender, but Strawberry does not appreciate her cat's talent. As she admonishes her pet, a shadow falls across the frame...but it's only Mr. Longface Caterpillar (voiced by Paul Dobson). He's got nothing better to do, so he's just hanging out at the cafe. Seems he does well-attended readings at the cafe, so Strawberry tries to get a little information about the next chapter out of him, but Longface is not talking. Or rather, not about the next chapter. He's all too ready to talk about his family.
While Strawberry was chatting up Mr. Caterpillar, pandemonium broke out at the fountain, as an errant lean sent juice spewing from every half-finished pipe. Strawberry is horrified at the sight of all this chaos, but the other girls have been making the most of it, running around like a sprinkler. Until Strawberry cuts the juice and demands an explanation. The girls' attempts to explain all at once are cut short by the sound of a warning bell: a storm is coming! As everyone heads inside for safety, Orange's drawing flutters to the ground, and as the rain falls, the wind carries it up above BBC...
Holed up in the cafe for the time being, the girls try to trick Longface into reading the last chapter early, but he's still tightlipped about the story. Fortunately for him, he's able to distract them by pointing out the storm is over. But while the storm may be over, their trouble has just begun. It seems the BerryWork's water supply is blocked by an enormous rock, which is held in place by a keystone.
Princess Berrykin drives off in her little car to try and find more water while Strawberry and the girls try to figure out what to do about the rock. Even if they could move it, the riverbed would give it a clear shot at the town, effectively flattening it. Orange missed this piece of information, though, and tries to push the keystone out of the way. Her efforts cause the rock to shudder, raining debris down on her, and making it clear she'd better get out of there. Strawberry declares the rock off-limits, and they settle down to wait for the Berrykins.
Evening comes with no sign of the Berrykins, and Strawberry's about to go look for them when the Princess arrives. The good news: she found water; the bad news: it's too far away, so everyone in BBC has to move. On top of that, they only have two days to get all packed, as the Berrykins have to move all the berries, too, and they won't last long without water. No one is thrilled with this turn of events, and as the girls express their dismay in the cafe, Mr. Longface shows up again and tells them of the Great Geyser Stone. This stone, he says, flipping through his book, is golden and spurts water when placed in the sun. "Is it real?" Strawberry asks, and the caterpillar insist that it lies "just south of here." The other girls press him for more information, and with each answer, they grow more sure that the thing to do is go after this stone. Strawberry is still skeptical, though, and asks the caterpillar again if he's actually seen the stone. He continues to answer in the affirmative, so Strawberry decides that they should try anything, no matter how farfetched. They decide to leave first thing in the morning, and Longface chokes on his ice cream sundae.

We're just gettin' started
The next morning, Strawberry leaves Custard and Pupcake with the Berrykins, kisses Princess Berrykin goodbye, and she and the girls, plus Longface, are off. At first, the going is easy, but all too soon they find their path is blocked. "Looks like it's the end of the road for us!" Plum Pudding exclaims, posing dramatically. From the way she laughs afterwards, I'm guessing she was reenacting a scene from a play put on by the Berry Bitty Players. But Longface insists they just need to keep heading south. Unfortunately, his compass is broken, so he tries to use the sun to navigate. But they've gotten so far undercover of ferns that the sun is completely blocked. Orange gets an idea, but after her experience with the rock the day before, she lacks the confidence to act on it. So Strawberry works her esteem-boosting magic and gets Orange to share her observation: the Banyabana flower always points toward the sun, even when it's hidden, and since there's a Banyabana flower right there, they easily get their bearings. In honor of her observation, Strawberry makes Orange the leader as they continue their journey.
As the day wears on, the girls use leaves as parasols to keep off the sun's rays. Longface takes advantage of the stretch of time to review the previous week's chapter, which the girls put up with in the hopes that he'll move onto the next chapter without noticing. The only thing he doesn't notice, though, is the inclined slope in front of him. As he slides down the hill, the girls hurry to think of a plan to help him. Orange pulls out an oak leaf and the others get on, except for Blueberry, who tries to convince the others to find a more secure plan. But time is a-wasting, and the caterpillar is the only one who knows how to get to the geyster stone, so they take off, with Blueberry reluctantly joining them.
The girls and caterpillar slip and slide, avoiding obstacles until they end up going over a leaf ramp and get launched into the air, coming down on top of a field of daisies. As Strawberry takes stock of everyone, Blueberry admits that the leaf ride was really fun. Of course, the fact that everyone is all right probably helped. Strawberry helps Mr. Caterpillar right himself on another flower, and he is quick to grab his fallen book. Strawberry insists they must be way off course, but Longface reassures her that nothing could be further from the truth. She doesn't get how that can be possible, but her concerns are cut short by the arrival of a herd of bunnies.
With flowers falling in the bunnies' path, the girls and caterpillar make a break for it across the flower tops, except for Lemon Meringue, who is frozen with fear. Strawberry goes back for her and takes her arm, jumping from flower to flower with Lemon in tow. The others see this and follow her example, laughing and hollering as they go. Even Lemon gets in the groove, laughing along with the rest of them. But all too soon they come to the end of the daisy field. With the bunnies closing in, things are looking grim, until Lemon tells them all to run in place. The running twists the flower stem, sending the flower itself spinning off and up into the sky.
The girls enjoy the sensation of flying, until it becomes apparent they're about to land in a nest of bristling thistles. Most of the girls manage to land safely, but Raspberry Torte and Mr. Caterpillar's flowers get stuck on top of thistles. Longface slips down onto the stem, with his book in his hand, but he refuses to give it up to any of the girls so that they can help him. He slides all the way down with a bump, no worse for wear. Raspberry, meanwhile, has to wriggle her way down past spiky thistles, which Plum applauds as a "hot new dance." Longface remarks that they're right on course, and they continue on.

And the whole day through
As they travel, Mr. Caterpillar mentions that they might like to settle down where they are, "should we fail to find the geyser stone." This basically comes out of the blue, and Strawberry gets Longface alone to pump him for more concrete information on the stone. After a bit of hemming and hawwing, Longface flips through his book and tells her it's in the cavern of the seven waterfalls. "And where is that?" Miss Shortcake asks curtly. Fortune (perhaps) is with Mr. Caterpillar today, as there is a cave just ahead of them. Convinced, Strawberry leads the other girls toward the cave, only to be thwarted by a deep canyon. With no way to cross, they have to head back home, disheartened. Longface tries to cheer them up, telling them there's no dishonor in turning back now. He goes on and on about how they can build themselves a new Bitty City, better than the old one, but his pronouncements don't have the desired effect, and Plum runs off in tears.
Plum wants to be alone in her sorrow, but Strawberry gently tells her not to be ashamed of crying. So Plum confesses that she may joke around, but she loves Berry Bitty City so much, another one won't do. "That's all you had to say," says Strawberry, and the girls renew their resolve to get the stone. Using a vine, they try to pull down a branch to use as a bridge, but all their pulling isn't getting them anywhere. Longface comments that this maybe too much for the girls to handle, but they scoff at him; nothing is too difficult for them! Lemon braids some reeds together to make a stronger rope, and while this makes it harder to lasso the branch, eventually they get it, and pull down a branch. Even with the branch down, Longface tries to dissuade them from crossing, but to no avail. With Strawberry in the lead, the girls cross one by one. Raspberry makes the mistake of looking down, but Lemon takes her by the hand to help her cross. Longface tries to keep from crossing, but Strawberry won't take no for an answer and practically drags him across.
Inside the cave, the girls note a lack of both waterfalls and geyster stone. Mr. Caterpillar tries to brush the latter off as thieves, but just then, Orange spots a glittering stone sitting in a pool of light. As the girls go to grab it, Longface tries to tell Strawberry the terrible truth, but he is swarmed by the girls, singing his praises. They hurry outside to test it, but Longface stops them, telling them it's too late: the sun has already set and they'll have to wait until morning. Blueberry rushes past him anyway, desperate to try and catch the last bit of sun, but it is indeed too late. Longface once again tries to bring himself to say something, but he can't get it out.
While the girls camp out around a campfire (where did they get the marshmallows?), Longface sits off to the side, munching leaves. Strawberry and the other girls try to convince him to join them and finally read the last chapter; after all, what better place for a story than a campfire? But Longface begs off, claiming to be tired and slinking off to sleep. Though disappointed, the girls respect his right to a good night's sleep, and soon turn in themselves. Later that evening, as the girls snooze, Longface sneaks over and takes the stone from a slumbering Strawberry. He intends to throw it into the canyon, but when he tosses it, it lands on a ledge, not too far down at all. In his attempts to knock the rock down with his cane, he loses his hat, and his attempts to get that back loosen the book from its place in his vest, and when he tries to keep it from falling, too, he ends up falling himself and landing the ledge. All that noise wakes up the girls, and they find him crying pitifully on the ledge.
When asked how he and the stone got down there, Longface continues to sniffle and spins a story about a thief, but not all the girls are convinced. At any rate, they have to get him and the stone back up (Blueberry suggests getting the stone first), and Raspberry gets an idea, but immediately dismisses it as being silly. Since no one else can think of anything, they all implore her to share anyway, even going to so far as to promise to still like her even if the idea stinks. Not a bad thing to secure, since her idea is to use the rope to lower one of them (Strawberry) down while the others keep hold above the ledge. Strawberry gets hold of the stone all right, but while the others pull her back up, the ledge Mr. Caterpillar is standing on starts to crumble and he falls, managing to grab hold of a root. Strawberry has the others lower her, but her lowest isn't quite low enough. Raspberry quickly ties the end of the rope around her waist and has the others hold onto her feet in order to lower her as far as they can and get Strawberry within Longface's reach. Strawberry manages to grab Mr. Caterpillar with her free hand, but as the others slowly pull them up, his weight becomes too much for just one hand. She quickly weighs her options, but there's nothing to be done: she drops the stone and grabs Mr. Caterpillar. Once they are both pulled up, Longface expresses his gratitude for Strawberry saving his life, but the others mourn the loss of the geyser stone. Strawberry breaks down in tears over the choice she had to make, and for putting her friends in this kind of danger. Plum comforts her, and Longface starts to get up, his book falling from his vest. Blueberry immediately runs to pick it up, exclaiming, "Aha!" as she does (no wonder he never let go of it). As she reads, it becomes apparent that this is not the stories of his many relatives (as he'd claimed), but a cookbook from his mother. As Strawberry calls him on this, he bursts into tears again and tells them the tragic truth: he has no family at all, and the stone they found was just fool's gold. There's a nice reversal here, with Blueberry, who has been translating Longface's sesquipedalian phrases into regular speech for the others, giving the technical explanation about iron pyrite. Longface also explains that he was only trying to cheer everyone up with the story about the stone, not thinking that they'd want to, you know, go after the one thing that might save their home. Everyone is disappointed, but Strawberry blames herself for the whole thing.

Grab a partner, Lend a hand
Skipping ahead to the next day, the girls return home where they are hailed as heroes by the Berrykins. While Longface mopes in the back, Strawberry has to break the news about the geyser stone to the Berrykins, and everyone goes to start packing. Helping out at the general store, Blueberry finds Banyabana seeds on the shelf and reminds Orange about that part of their adventure. Over at the Sweet Beats Dance Studio, Raspberry cheers up a gloomy Plum with her thistle dance, and Strawberry surveys the pictures on the walls of her cafe, dejected.
As the denizens of Berry Bitty City begin traveling to their new home, Blueberry notices Orange's drawing from earlier up against a tree. Its colors muted by the rain, it somehow gives Blueberry an idea. She maps out her plan and explains it to the others: they'll split into two groups; Group One will lasso the keystone holding the rock in place while Group Two will use a net to deflect the rock into a nearby ravine. Everyone is keen on this idea except Strawberry, her confidence shattered by their failed quest. As the others start making preparations, she tries to convince them not to trust such a risky plan, while the others keep throwing her lines from earlier in the movie back at her. She points out that she let them all down, but they counterpoint out that there were a lot of things they did during that trip that they didn't think they could do. But still, Strawberry isn't convinced. She also points out that they'll need a lot of help to pull off the plan, and Blueberry tells her to ask the Berrykins. Strawberry thinks they won't take another risk, but Orange says that if Strawberry asks, the Berrykins will listen. When Strawberry wonders at this, Raspberry tells her point blanke that she has the talent of motivation, and the girls chime in with examples from their trip. With her friends' help, Strawberry believes in them who believe in her, and goes to get the Berrykins.
The girls continue to prepare, making rope, sewing up fabric for the net, while Strawberry and the Berrykins find a suitable fallen branch. Soon almost everything is in place, but Strawberry sees Mr. Longface sulking around in the background, so she tries to get him involved, too. Her ploy is accidentally thwarted by Blueberry, though, and he sulks off again. No time to worry about caterpillars, though, as it's time to put the plan in action. Blueberry's group successfully pulls out the keystone, and the rock goes rolling down the riverbed, like some kind of crazy potato. It crashes across the scenery, felling daisies in its wake, until it hits the net. Strawberry's group holds onto the rope until just the right time, but when everyone lets go, the end of the rope, knotted into a little bow, gets caught in the crook of a tree. With the rock threatening to just break through the net, Strawberry tries to reach the bow, but it's too high! Longface appears out of nowhere to give her a boost, but it's not enough. So he gives her his book, and she whacks the bow until it comes free, destroying the book in the process. The rope lets loose and the net acts like a slingshot, sending the rock out of harm's way and into a puddle of mud. The water flows free, and the BerryWorks starts up again. And there is much rejoicing, with hugs all around.

It's time to celebrate
A short time later, Strawberry throws a party at the cafe, with a special gift to be given to Mr. Caterpillar. Strawberry explains that if he hadn't taken them on their quest, they never would have figured out how to move the rock that was blocking the water. Longface isn't sure that he can be forgiven just like that, but if nothing else, Strawberry believes in second chances, and gives him a blank book to write his stories in. To cap things off, she and the girls welcome him home.
Another short time later, Blueberry and Raspberry present Orange with the finished version of her fountain, now nicknamed The Great Geyser Fountain. While it works just fine at first, it suddenly starts gushing juice all over the place, getting everyone in the vicinity nice and wet. Again, Strawberry doesn't appreciate the chaos in her yard, and goes out to put a stop to it, but this time she's waylaid by a celebrating Raspberry, and so she joins in the celebration as the camera pans up, up, and away.
There's a bonus song at the end, which starts with Strawberry playing guitar in the cafe and singing, but then segues into the end credits. Also, the only special feature (besides printing pages) is a Cabaret Sing-a-long, which is a completely different song set to footage from the movie. The end features a quick plug for the next coming movie "Berryfest Princess" which will debut Spring 2010.

I tried to stay objective while doing the write-up, but I have to say, I do not like Mr. Longface Caterpillar. I don't like plots where a character has to try and keep a lie until they're eventually found out, and I don't like this kind of character, either. Although, while thinking it over I realized that I do like that kind of character on occasion, but usually when they're not meant to be liked (or if the other characters don't particularly like them). But Longface here is liked by the characters quite a bit, although more for his stories than his actual personality. I guess he's supposed to be a grandfather figure for the girls, but I just hope he's not a recurring character or anything.
And really, he just wasn't needed as a character. I mean, the story could have transpired just the same with, say, Blueberry reading about the geyser stone in one of her books and the girls heading off to find it, and either getting to the cavern to find it not there (taken by others who read of it, perhaps), or discovering that the book Blueberry found was a work of fiction, not a true account. There might have had to be another trial or extra tribulation on the journey, but there are plenty of things that can happen on a trip, so that really shouldn't have been a problem.
Another story point that I couldn't help noticing was that with all the talk of moving and not wanting to move, no one mentioned that, hey, they'll all be together when they go. I mean, usually in a cartoon, if someone is sad about moving, it's because they're moving away from their friends. But everyoone is going to the exact same place, so that's not really an issue. And since they're building their own place from the ground up, nothing says they can't make it almost exactly like the original Berry Bitty City. So, really, what's there to miss?
The animation gets a little wonky in spots, and there's one scene where Strawberry seems to lose her lipsync entirely. Other than that, though, I thought that everything looked all right, but I can't help but feel this would all be so much cuter if it was 2D instead of CGI.

Bonus screenshots:


Grapes said...

Good grief. Throughout reading this review, I kept itching to ask if Longface is as annoying as he sounds. Is he?

The Zany Bishojo Evalana said...

Yeah, he is. I definitely feel this movie would be vastly improved without his presence.

Anonymous said...

Can I find this on youtube?

CalebxRhyia said...

Princess Berrykin drives off in her little car??? LOL ansubg