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Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Reviewed by Paul T. Riddell, ©

Format: Movie
By:   John A. Davis (director, writer) and Steve Odekirk (writer)
Genre:   Children's / Action
Released:   December 22, 2001
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

First, the bad news about Nickelodeon's new animated star vehicle: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is no Invader ZIM. The good news? Jimmy Neutron is no Rugrats, either.

Those outside of Dallas, Texas may be excused for not knowing about Jimmy Neutron: Jimmy is the creation of DNA Productions, a Dallas-based animation studio that wanted to prove that an animation company didn't have to be located in Los Angeles to accomplish fine work. Previously best known for the "Nana and Little Puss-Puss" shorts seen in the Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Animation Festival series, as well as the Christmas special Olive, The Other Reindeer, DNA presented a short CGI production featuring Jimmy Quasar to Nickelodeon in 1995. Nickelodeon was so impressed that after a few changes, especially in the title character's name, its execs commissioned not only a regular ongoing half-hour series for Nick but a feature film as well. Until now, the only real symposium for Jimmy Neutron was at the annual Dallas Video Festival (http://www.videofest.org), where Jimmy Neutron shorts understandably received accolades in the Video Festival's "The Texas Show". It's safe to say that Jimmy Neutron has now hit prime time.

(Now is about the time to point out that absolutely no similarities exist between Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Judd Winick's deranged comic series Barry Ween, Boy Genius, other than the title predicate and an equal fascination with high-tech hardware. The world admittedly needs an animated production with the range and determination of Barry Ween, but not necessarily for kids. Most adults couldn't handle it, either, come to think of it.)

The storyline is relatively linear. Jimmy Neutron is a reasonably typical kid hailing from the town of Retroville: two loving parents, a nice suburban house, and a loyal and playful dog. Let us never mind that both parents are exasperated with Jimmy's constant science experiments, the house hides any number of secrets, and the dog, Goddard, is mechanical. As with everyone else, Jimmy's schoolmates take his constant inventing and experimenting in stride: his best friend, Carl Wheezer, helps Jimmy with launching satellites into orbit, while his seeming archnemesis, Cindy Vortex, spends her time overcompensating in hier achievements in order to show up Jimmy's efforts. Life is good until the opening of the new Retroland Amusement Park, which is the place to go for "anyone who's anyone"... except Jimmy, whose mother bans him from attending on opening night "because it's a school night". Naturally, like any rational child, he sneaks out anyway, having a blast at Retroland while his parents, along with every other adult in Retroville are abducted and enslaved by the battle fleet of the Yokians. Life without parents is good, until the Retroville kids realize that life isn't all that fun without them, and they beseech Jimmy to help them get back some parental control.

Okay, typical sitcom material, or so you'd think. What makes this so much fun is the undercurrent of serious humor running the whole way through. Goddard the robot dog alone is a compendium of gags and japes, ranging from bathroom humor (Goddard accidentally drops a line of bolts and screws in front of Jimmy's parents, making them exclain "Not on the porch!") to Microsoft-bashing (Goddard's response to the command "Play dead" is to explode and then reassemble; after playing dead allows Jimmy and his classmates to escape from a Yokian prison, Jimmy's response is "I guess I'll have to make that bug a feature"), combined with the sense of what any ten-year-old with a massive brain would want in Man's Best Friend. Unlike far too many animated films, Jimmy Neutron not only isn't just for kids, but the nonstop patter requires viewers to stop and pay attention. Laugh too long, and miss out on a good dozen little cracks and sight gags.

The only real serious complaint about the film? Well, it's all about the pacing. Nickelodeon management is notorious about tampering with a sure thing, as evidenced by the constant interference with both Ren and Stimpy and Invader ZIM, and parts of Jimmy Neutron move as if they were last-minute additions. The really annoying aspect of Jimmy Neutron, though, is the soundtrack, apparently focus-grouped to death in order to come up with the perfect mix to help sell the soundtrack album. Where a straight instrumental score would have worked very well, we get everything from the Go-Gos to the Ramones, with entirely too much *Nsync and Britney Spears, and a few too many of the scenes seem molded around the songs instead of the songs helping to influence the mood of the scenes. Thankfully, these are relatively short, being the usual five-second clips intended to justify promoting the songs on the radio as "From the new soundtrack album!"

Even with that warning, pay it no mind. Considering that movie theaters are about the only venue open on Christmas Day in most areas, make plans for a double feature. Start out with a matinee of Jimmy Neutron in order to strop the sense of wonder in preparation for viewing Fellowship of the Ring. You'll thank yourself for it later. The crew at Pixar had best be careful, because DNA is definitely going to offer a challenge in the computer-generated animation market.


-- Paul T. Riddell is the Collectibles editor for "Revolution SF". Examples of his dangerous hubris and crippling lack of self-esteem are available at http://www.hpoo.com.

 
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