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Attack of Bugs & Jitters

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2000


    Dancer in the Dark Run for your lives! "Digimon" is coming!
(20th Century Fox via Associated Press)
I'm not nuts about shooting hyperactive boys up with Ritalin, but "Digimon: The Movie" could use about 2,000 cc's of the stuff, injected straight into the projector.

On the other hand, the animated movie, aimed at kids below the age of 8, is so twitchy, fidgety, skittery and wiggly that the drug it made me yearn for was Dramamine, followed by a chaser of bourbon, 12 years old, neat, in a beer stein.

Do you grown-ups out there require a plot summary? Sigh. You never give a guy a break, do you? It seems a bug that looks like a crawfish with personality is eating up data on the Internet, but the military, the civilian sector and even Bill Gates himself are all unable to respond. (Does this mean TheOnion.com is in jeopardy? Oh, no! This is serious!) The creature is called a Digimon, which is a neologism coined by combining the words "digital" and "monster." The question: Who's going to save the world? The answer is obvious: small Japanese children.

At least in "The Seven Samurai" the Japanese who saved the sum of things for pay were grown-ups. Here they're so far from puberty they don't yet quite recognize sexual distinctions. And really, they're only nominally Japanese; actually, I'm only assuming they're Japanese, since the movie is from Japan and the animators are all Japanese.

In truth, those of the globalization paranoia school of mental illness may find this movie encoded with a blueprint for the U.N. dictatorship that already has Pakistani blue-berets training in rappelling from black helicopters in the hills of West Virginia. That's because in this feature, the children are weirdly global; they're from the day-care center of the damned, in U.N. headquarters. They've already been globalized, which is to say de-ethnicized, de-nationalized, de-tribalized, de-individualized. Their faces have been reduced to genericism: a set of big eyes, a li'l snubby nose and no texture whatsoever. They haven't been drawn so much as cloned. They look like the Hell-spawn of Tiger Woods and Mariah Carey.

Anyhow, while the entire adult world frets and moans while remaining paralyzed, the kids act. They have perfected a technique to digitize themselves, and when they enter the Net, they assume the configuration of dinosaurs or giant parrots or crabs or some such. Well, why not? The final battle is fought in cyberspace, in which the good-kid bugs try to eat the bad Digimon bug before it gets to WashingtonPost.com. To say that we have surpassed Pac-Man is to understate the case; this is sheer monster war, fought in a Nevereverland on some genius's hard drive.

If your synapses fire at 1/3200 of a millisecond, you will probably enjoy this film; you will certainly be able to stay with it, which is more than I can say. What it did, though, was suggest what truly lurks in Dante's ninth circle of Hell: It would be a minivan that seats eight and contains 12 6-year-olds. They have just seen "Digimon." They also have a giant-size box of Cocoa Puffs, plus several boxes of Cracker Jack from which the prizes have been removed. Your job is to drive them to Miami nonstop, and the air conditioning, naturally, doesn't work. You may do this, or you may take a German Luger and one cartridge and end it all. I believe in free will, so make your own choice. As for me, I'll take the Luger any day.

Digimon: The Movie (82 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG for mild monster battle violence and the sense of despair and uselessness it will inflict on most adults.


Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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