Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead

General Audience: C

Yu-Gi-Oh! game aficionados worldwide and virtually all children eight to 12 will love this film, best described as a dueling-with-monsters adventure animation. Not of much appeal to anyone over 13. 

Family Audience: B-

Benign entertainment. Nothing objectionable or praiseworthy. Flash-card-paced cartoon images with sore-ear surround sound. Rated PG for scary combat and monster images.


My nine-year-old son is a Yu-Gi-Oh! convert and will probably disown me after he reads this review. Fortunately, like most children, he has not yet learned the art of tearing movies apart. He enjoys virtually any animated film, particularly those where an average kid takes on the most menacing monsters in the universe and battles them into submission.

He was quick to let me know that Yu-Gi-Oh! the movie deserves an ďA.Ē Warner Bros. would be delighted to hear his recommendation, which, translated, boils down to it being an empowering, riveting, adrenaline-pumping masterpiece.

I was less generous. However, keep in mind that my criticism is from the perception of a general audience.

Before we delve into the filmís premise, a thumbnail history may be helpful. Yu-Gi-Oh! was created by Japanese artist/writer Kazuki Takahashi. It began as a comic book in Japan in 1996 and quickly flourished into a prosperous global brand that includes the animated television series that appears weekly on kids WB, a video-game franchise and a hugely popular trading-card game.

The TV show follows the adventures of a mild-mannered high school student, Yugi Muto, who becomes a virtual superhero when he plays his Yu-Gi-Oh! (or ďKing of GamesĒ) cards right.

The movie is the story Yugi Muto, a boy captivated by a highly successful worldwide marketing strategy that involves a card game in which children duel one anotherís monsters.

Each card contains the likeness of a monster and is worth a specific number of ďlife points.Ē Predictably, the cards with the most points are the most valuable when playing the game because the one with the most life points wins the duel.

Children and parents pay big bucks on eBay for ultra-rare and secret-rare cards. Yugi probably exercised some stock options for his deck .

The game played in the film is thrilling because powers that children only imagine when playing the game on the kitchen table come to life on the big screen. The plot is simple and direct. Deep below the desert sands of Egypt, an old evil has awakened. Anubis, who was defeated thousands of years ago by the pharaoh, has returned for revenge to destroy Yugi and take over the world. Yugi must defeat him once and for all.  

Unfortunately, the movie is merely a super-sized version of the television series. On a TV screen, two-dimensional monsters might cut the mustard. But on the big screen they look flat and less menacing. 

What the film needed was the artistic touch from the folks at Pixar or Disney. Then again, this may be a Western bias for more fluid, life-like movement in animated characters. So itís only fair to give the films creatorís credit for staying true to the comic-book look from which Yu-Gi-Oh! emerged.

And, credit should be given to Takahashi for creating a highly imaginative and complex game that requires some mental calculus.

Yu-Gi-Oh! the card game is not for the faint of heart. After my son gave me a crash course on how it is played, I flashed back to my own childhood when my dad was trying to teach me the game of bridge. I couldnít help but compare the similarities.

The constant calculation of points and values in Yu-Gi-Oh! are as mind numbing and complex as they are in bridge. Coincidentally, life points are central to both.

My sonís enthusiasm for this card game is as great as my fatherís was for his. I never did play bridge. And, after seeing Yu-Gi-Oh! the movie, Iím still donít understand why anyone would want to play the game either.