The first time I watched this film, this was my final verdict:
"It's non-essential, but enjoyable. It makes stirring use of the TV show's theme music in key scenes. It's a blatant merchandising cash grab aimed at little girls, but hardly any more than the TV show. I enjoyed it. It might even be better than the majority of anime movies, actually."
After rewatching it in my PreCure marathon...
It's a mixed bag. It's three films in one, including among the best, most fluid and imaginative work in any PreCure film. At other times, it's comfortably the worst PreCure film to date.
CURE FLORA AND THE MISCHIEVOUS MIRROR (5 minutes)
It's kiddified CGI, looking like nothing we've ever seen before in PreCure.
It's also fantastic, with tons of character and personality. It's basically a five-minute silent film comedy, with music and sound effects. (If someone blinks or stamps a foot, you'll hear a rubber duck squeak.)
The plot is basically the Marx Brothers' mirror scene from Duck Soup. Haruka uses her powers to challenge her double, who's been made by cute ghosts. The weird crying moment isn't even trying to look convincing, but these chibified CGI versions of the Go Princess PreCures together are adorable. I bet they sold a gazillion toy figures of those. I'd buy them.
THE PUMPKIN KINGDOM'S TREASURE (50 minutes)
This, on the other hand, is half-dead.
It's okay, mind you. I watched it. It's an unremarkable PreCure runaround that's ticking all the boxes. Unfortunately it's ticking them in a mechanical way that only comes alive intermittently.
It's interesting mostly as a prime example of Haruka's irrationality. (Both Go Princess films add significantly to Haruka's characterisation.) Here, even the universe bends to fit her beliefs.
It begins with an empty scene of the PreCures eating pudding. This is important for the plot, but a better film would have also made it charming or funny. After that, they fight a monster that appears from nowhere with so little narrative flow that one wonders if the film's producers added the scene at the last minute after realising that they didn't have enough fight scenes.
After that, as far as I was concerned, the film started. The narrative came alive and I woke up. The girls visit the Pumpkin Kingdom and its wonderful visual designs. Those skirts are to die for. Ditto the spherical king.
Does this country have a princess? Yes, it does. Her name's Pumpururu and she's locked in a tower... but the king and queen say "no". They're money-grubbing and clearly under the influence of their evil minister, Warp. Apparently the country's going to choose a princess, in a competition. What? Why? Why does Warp want a princess around? This is never explained. It feels right, mind you, since it couldn't be more appropriate for a princess-themed PreCure series.
Maybe it's a cunning plan to get the PreCures out of the way? Naturally, our heroines enter the contest. Round one: dancing! (Minami wins, with her ballet.) Round two: walking! (Kirara wins, being a top model, and no one smells a rat at the idea of a competition to see who can walk.)
Round three will be the violin, for Towa.
Haruka, though, finds a doll and disappears. She finds a pudding factory where fairies are being squashed and discarded. The film's focus becomes pudding. Haruka cooks one. She wants to demonstrate that one pudding can have the "taste of sadness" and that hers will "taste of family". (Sadly, she doesn't mean a cannibal feast.) She claims that a cook's emotional state affects the taste of food... and this works. The heatfelt emotion of her pudding brings the king and queen back to their senses and help them remember their daughter, Pumpururu.
What the hell?
This is obviously bollocks, but it's also quite common in anime, not just PreCure. It's still bollocks, though. Once again, Haruka's deranged... but the universe proves her right. She's a reality warper. The laws of physics are whatever Haruka believes them to be. That's not the conclusion I'm meant to be drawing, but it's undeniable. It's there on the screen.
(It's not necessarily even impossible in-universe. She's a magical girl, after all.)
Anyway, this is cool. It's exploring the unique point of Haruka's characterisation and pushing it in unimaginable directions. This is what I wanted more of from the parent TV series.
Thereafter, the film unfolds predictably. It's okay, but never as good as it should have been. Warp admits that he's evil and turns into a lava monster, then a toad. Towa gets to be cool, outthinking Warp and being shocked at what he's done to the country's citizens. (When she ascends to the throne of Hope Kingdom, she'll be a good ruler.) The final battle is second-rate and doesn't build up the danger strongly enough to sell its Miracle Lights moment, but I liked the girls' determined faces when they're unleashing their magical blasts.
Even the adorable Pumpururu is a slight disappointment. Her reunion with her parents is the big emotional moment, but the film hasn't done enough to establish either her or the brainwashed greed of her parents. The scene works, but it could have been stronger.
PRECURE AND REFI'S WONDER NIGHT! (20 minutes)
This, on the other hand, feels like the same idea done right.
Again, a supervillain's taken over a Pumpkin Kingdom, with pumpkin-themed visuals. (The film was released on Halloween.) Again, there's a princess. (This one's called Refi.) However this version's immeasurably better.
It's more CGI, but in the different style of the show's second end theme sequence. (On an Adorably Disneyfied scale, Duck Soup was a full 10/10 while this is probably an eight.)
Again, though, the animation's playful and witty. Look at the Zetsuborgs waving in a friendly way at Haruka and Refi after finding them hiding. Look at Haruka's pinwheeling cartoon legs, when running into an alley. Then look at how the chasing Zetsuborgs freeze in mid-air after being punched out of that same alley. (That moment was always going to be cool, but the freeze redoubles that.)
There's cool action, e.g. the tightrope sequence. There's a doll that comes alive. Everyone in the kingdom has pumpkin heads, but the supervillain's pumpkin head also spins.
The only thing that's lacking is an emotional core. Theoretically that's Refi, but this is an action film and she's an action heroine. She doesn't grab us in the same way as Pumpururu.
So, in summary, it's the best and the worst. This is the only anthology PreCure film to date, incidentally. The experiment was a huge success with the CGI episodes, but the main middle section needed more work. (One's tempted to blame the reduced running time, but frankly there are much better PreCure films that needed cutting down to something like this middle section's length.) Even the middle section's still watchable, though.