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My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Magical Movie Night
A trio of shorter, interconnected Equestria Girls adventures
Loves: My daughter
Likes: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the Equestria Girls films, Equestria Girls music
Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I am friends with one of the writers involved in this release, and have made every effort to not allow that to influence my review.
So, a little under a year after the release of Legend of Everfree, and my now 11-year-old daughter has less interest in the My Little Pony franchise, which mens for this release, I was on my own, armed only with the knowledge gained having reviewed at least seven different home-video releases, including the entire breadth of the Equestria Girls universe, an alternate universe in which the ponies are humanoid teens with teen problems to solve (made more complicated by the presence of friendship magic.) So I wasn't exactly lost when it came to approaching "Magical Movie Night", a collection of three short adventures featuring the Equestria Girls characters, which pick up after the latest film.
The first adventure, "Dance Magic," sees the girls trying to fundraise to fix the damage Camp Everfree suffered in the previous film. The opportunity they need comes in the form of a music-video contest, but there's competition in the form of the girls of Crystal Prep Academy, the crew's foes from Friendship Games. As is the case with most of the "Friendship is Magic" Pony episodes, the key to success is in discovering some sort of moral tied to social skills. In "Movie Magic", the girls are granted a visit to the set of the new Daring Do movie, a reward for saving Camp Everfree--summer camp to the film's director, Canter Zoom. Unfortunately, the production's run into trouble, as costumes and props go missing and sets crumble, which threatens the participation of the film's tightly-scheduled star. In what's either a solid homage or a clear rip-off of the classic Scooby-Doo cartoons, it's up to the girls to solve the mystery.
Finally, in "Mirror Magic", a magical hand mirror gives dangerous powers to an old enemy of the girls, while Sunset Shimmer introduces a new member of the team, Starlight Glimmer, a transformed magic student of the pony-verse's Twilight Sparkle. It's as classic an example of the Pony concept as this disc provides, mixing magic-tinged action with good-ole lesson learning. Though there's no true through-line bringing the three stories together, there's enough connective tissue to make this a more cohesive collection than most My Little Pony DVD releases, and with three related 20-minute specials, it's a self-contained arc. However, that means all you're getting is just over 60 minutes of animated adventures (even if the price is reasonably low to match.)
The thing is, you're also not getting the same Equestria Girls found in the previous movies, as the TV-sized adventures (complete with fades to black for commercial breaks) result in less ambitious animation and less of the songs that have emerged from the other releases (even if the Daniel Ingram-penned "Dance Magic" is a quality track.) The ponies are still essentially the same personalities that fans have grown to love, but they don't have the room to roam in these more compact tales, each of which has a distinct plot to service. The fact that, until the third episode, when there's a genuine enemy to take down, they barely reference their pony powers (involving geodes they wear, which is apparently a thing in this world?) makes it feel even more removed from the movies that came before.
A DVD release, Magical Movie Night is packed into a white, standard-width keepcase with an embossed, spot-UV coated slipcover that repeats the cover art. The disc's mildly animated menu offers a choice to watch the film, select scenes or check out the special feature. There are no audio options and no subtitles available.
After being spoiled by the gorgeous high-definition transfers on the Equestria Girls Blu-ray films, watching the characters on standard-def DVD is a definite let-down. The colors are fine, the level of fine detail is good and there are no obvious issues with digital distractions, but it just doesn't pop the way the previous Blu-rays did. If this is your first look at the show, it won't be as much of an issue though.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track does a fine job with the show's lively dialogue, with some discreet placement in the surrounds to flesh out the soundstage, while sound effects and music boosts utilize the sides and rear speakers to create a sense of energy (aided by some LFE that enhances the music and action. Distortion is not a concern.
The only extra included is the traditional sing-along karaoke track, this time featuring "Dance Magic", from the first of the three episodes.
The Bottom Line
The three episodes in this collection are a departure from the previous "Equestria Girls" movies, feeling more like the "Friendship is Magic" series, which isn't really a compliment because the films had established their own sense of identity built around music and a quasi-magical backstory. Here, they are more like a standard earthbound teen cartoon that eventually remembers that there are superpowers involved come the third episode. The shows look and sound good on DVD, but there are limited extras, so unless you're really into these three episodes, owning it isn't something you'll need to do. Fans should give them a look but the movies are a much better time.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.