Wednesday, August 2, 2017

'LEGO DC Super Hero Girls: Brain Drain' DVD review

The new "LEGO DC Super Hero Girls: Brain Drain" animated movie is recommended viewing. It's most appropriate for girls as young as kindergarten age or so and as old as older tweens and young teenagers.

This was my first introduction to the "DC Super Hero Girls" universe. And it's a pleasant place to visit — for younger girls (the targeted audience) or even adults like me who are looking for a good chuckle.

Let's be honest: Who doesn't love getting an unexpected freebie in the mail? Yup, that happened Tuesday and I was watching the DVD that night. Watching "Brain Drain" didn't necessarily require me to turn off my brain, but it was a nice and entertaining way to spend 75 minutes (except for a corny pop tune played during a concert at the very end) being a couch potato after a day at work.

Here's some background on the concept, based on the trailers I saw for the first two equally kid-friendly DVDs ("Hero of the Year" and Intergalactic Games," both of which are done in more standard animation and actually piqued the interest of this middle-age fanboy!): Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl are teenagers attending Super Hero High School and are best friends who room together. None of the students are full-fledged superheroes, but they do their share of fighting baddies.

There are plenty of DC protagonists in "Brain Drain" that a keen eye will spot in the SHHS classrooms and hallways: Everybody from Cyborg and Beast Boy to Red Tornado and even Adam Strange. Check out Jim Gordon teaching forensics — and publicly busting his daughter's chops for getting a "C"! My favorite appearances are Wildcat as the P.E. teacher and a late cameo of Krypto the Superdog.

Harley Quinn complains about a music video that Batgirl made of her
and uploaded to YouTube.
Screen shot by CARY ASHBY/CARY'S COMICS CRAZE
Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn (who has a much more prominent role out of the three) are villains. Yet they attend a school for superheroes?

Then again, Super Hero High School is a place where Amanda Waller (who has the grayest sense of ethics and right-and-wrong I've seen in the standard DC continuties) is the principal and Gorilla Grodd is her assistant. And Diana is a teenager named Wonder Woman. I guess it's best not to overthink these things and simply enjoy it. ...

Besides Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Supergirl, Katana and Bumblebee also share the spotlight with Harley. At least they do in the opening credits. But it's obvious the focus is on the Big Three. I don't recall hearing of Bumblebee before this, except maybe in the later years of the original JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA ongoing series. But let's be real: That title was a shadow of itself by then.

Screen shot by CARY ASHBY/CARY'S COMICS CRAZE
"Brain Drain" gets its name from Supergirl, Batgirl and Wonder Woman committing some acts — pranks, really — that get them expelled from SHHS; the problem is they have no memory of doing any of it. The Girl of Steel used her heat vision to vandalize a stadium with the S-shield while Wonder Woman flew principal Waller's car to the top of Amethyst Tower. Harley is ticked about a music video that Batgirl uploaded to YouTube — and has been getting a million-plus views.

The action starts from the beginning when the trio interrupt a jewelry store heist — only to realize their buddies Katana and Bumblebee are the perpetrators. This leads to an even bigger plot involving Lena Luthor, Lex's sister, and Eclipso. (All girl power here, guys!)

Aside from the characters' C-ringed "hands" and the buildings or vehicles, the movie is LEGO by branding and title only. The animation, while high quality, could very easily not be associated with the unique building blocks.

The Batman-centric "Justice League" LEGO movies have plenty of slap-stick comedy and parody the characters, their universes and personality/power quirks. There is much less of that in "Brain Drain," although I did have some genuine chuckles. 

Even a diehard fan like me who pays attention to the casting credits will be hard-pressed to recognize many of the voice actors.

The most recognizable star is the cute-as-a-button Tara Strong as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy.

She's best known as the voice of Batgirl in "Batman: The Animated Series," Barbara Gordon in the short-lived "Beware the Batman" series and Babs/Batgirl in the "Batman: The Killing Joke" animated movie. Most recently, Strong is voicing Raven in "Teen Titans Go!" — and fans of that series will be pleased with very brief cameos of Greg Cipes voicing Beast Boy and Khary Payton as Cyborg.
Tara Strong collage courtesy of DeviantArt
"Brain Drain" is a good time. Parents — and certainly fathers and/or parents of girls, this is a great opportunity to cuddle up with your sweeties and enjoy some wholesome family entertainment.

Grade: B

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