Movie Review: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
FILM REVIEW: JIMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS
By Patrick Z. McGavin
Special to the Chicago Tribune
The new children's animation feature "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" is clever and funny, with a dense surface of ideas and moods.
Visually, "Jimmy Neutron" has the cool, pop stylization of "The Jetsons," though the movie cannily plays it both ways, layering cultural anarchy against smooth, socially conservative themes about the sanctity of family and home. The director, John A. Davis, and his collaborators root the movie squarely in the attitudes and feelings of the 1950s the period touchstones the movie plays off include "Rebel Without a Cause" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still."
The movie's setting is Retroville, an idealized suburban wonderland of genteel, placid surfaces. The eponymous hero, Jimmy (voiced by Debi Derryberry), who wears an extravagant pompadour that gives him the appearance of a '50s rock star, is a prodigious mastermind of sleek, dazzling inventions and this naturally leads his peers to ostracize him. His only friends are the nerdy, asthmatic Carl (Rob Paulsen) and the equally square Sheen (a very funny Jeff Garcia, sounding like Adam Sandler on acid). Jimmy's foil is the caustic Cindy Vortex (Carolyn Lawrence), an equally bright girl with an aggressively competitive nature. The movie's other dominant player is the preternaturally cool, James Dean-like Nick (Candi Milo). Jimmy's greatest ally is Goddard, his mechanical dog whose vast array of talents is frequently called upon.
In its first half, "Jimmy Neutron" engagingly draws on the classic, elemental conflict between the child's drive for self-empowerment and freedom and the authoritarian demands of his or her parents. As in many '50s movies, the story turns on an irrational fear of the "other" which materializes here in the form of the Yokians, a gelatinous mob of space aliens (headed by the majestically imperial Patrick Stewart and his prickly manservant Martin Short). On the night Jimmy and his friends rendezvous at the town's spectacular new amusement park, the aliens abduct the town's parents and transport them to their distant planet.
In the surreal aftermath of their parents' mysterious disappearance, Jimmy, his friends and classmates are invigorated by their absolute freedom. There's a very funny montage about the impulsive, spontaneous acts the kids take part in to celebrate the realization of their own fantasies. Their outrageous sense of joy is soon tempered by the deeper sense of abandonment and loneliness, and it falls upon Jimmy to devise a plan to reunite the kids with their parents. The movie turns brightly into an adventure-and-rescue plot, with Jimmy transforming the amusement park into a fleet of rocket ships to wage battle against the space aliens.
The movie is not a complete success. It contains a lot of harmless though unnecessary scatological humor that seems to be the work of co-writer and producer Steve Oedekerk (the "Ace Ventura" movies). There are also several stabs at social satire, mostly involving Cindy's materialistic African-American friend Libby (Crystal Scales) that are crude and poorly integrated into the plot. For the most part, though, "Jimmy Neutron" is a lot like its hero: smart, knowing and deeply imaginative.
This is a movie that is neither sentimental nor cheap; it never takes itself too seriously, and it has faith in the intelligence of its audience. "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius"
Directed and produced by John A. Davis; written by David N. Weiss, J. David Stem, Steve Oedekerk and Davis; original story by Davis and Oedekerk; produced by Oedekerk and Albie Hecht; music by John Debney. A Paramount Pictures release; opens Friday, Dec. 21. Running time: 1:30. MPAA rating: G.
Jimmy Neutron Debi Derryberry
King Goobot Patrick Stewart
Ooblar Martin Short
Miss Fowl Andrea Martin
Cindy Carolyn Lawrence
Sheen Jeff Garcia