Old Review: Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

Jimmy Neutron is a very intelligent kid for his age, doing experiments in his backyards, building inventions to make his life easier and more interesting, including a technologically built dog called Goddard, and consistently getting the highest grades in his school. These come with some flaws in his lifestyle, he really only has two best friends, a socially awkward chubby kid named Carl Wheezer and a Superhero obsessed kid name Sheen Estevez, his parents don’t take his work seriously or lightly and he is made fun of in class, mainly by a rival high grade student named Cindy Vortex. His current mission is to attempt to communicate to aliens by launching a message into space, this is successful as an alien race known as the Yolklians intercept his message, but they focus on more dark ideas as they kidnap all the parents in Neutron’s hometown. Jimmy later finds out the source of the disappearance of everyone’s parents, and since he is the only person smart enough to work out how they’ll get everyone’s parents back, Carl, Sheen, Cindy and every kid in the neighbourhood team with Jimmy to rescue their parents from the Yolklians’ sinister plans.

Jimmy Neutron began as a concept by animator John A Davis, while working in his company DNA Productions. A pilot was shown to Nickolodean, who were interested in the idea, so they green-lighted production for a TV series and a film. Despite intentions to air the TV series before the film was made, there was timing and schedule issues that made Nickolodean decide to fund the film instead. They were clearly hoping the film would be a hit by airing five-minute shorts promoting it and going all out in kids marketing with merchandise advertising on TV, especially to compete with household animation studios Pixar and Dreamworks. The film was released on December 21st 2001 and was a major box office success. It was one of the nominees for the Academy Awards first ever Best Animated Feature awards in 2002, and despite losing to Shrek, it remains the only Nickelodean Feature Film to be nominated an Academy Award.

The animation is cheap, but for feature film standards at least there is effort, especially when compared to the TV series. Lighting and camera characters are good and there is also a small level on detail it’s so it’s nothing to complain about, it’s not epic or even close to Dreamworks standards, but at least it’s watchable for anyone. Character designs are cartoony and exaggerated, watching it now really bothers me, very round details, almost little consistency and sometimes very exaggerated designs. There are exceptions, when I first saw this as a kid I did think the designs of Goddard and the Yolkians were cool and I still think they are really good now, but everyone else looks like they were modelled by different people in different buildings, and it looks like the only animated film more inconsistent with character design is Belleville.

The music consists of insert pop/rock songs for the most part, there are some original scores, mainly during the more dramatic sequences like the scenes with the aliens, but they aren’t that impressive enough to care about. There isn’t much to say about the music, I think the best way to explain the soundtrack is if you like either comedic sci-fi orchestral scores or the kind of music done by Bowling for Soup, Aaron Carter and The Ramones, then maybe you’ll like this soundtrack. If neither, then you’ll ignore and forget it easily.

I’m not sure if it’s a so bad its good vibe, but I love the cast and voice acting in this film, yet it’s full of unoriginal performances. Debi Derryberry as the main protagonist Jimmy Neutron is alright, bit whiney for young boy, but I give her credit for doing really well in fast talking lines. On the antagonist side, we have Patrick Stewart as King Goobot who sounds serious to the point where it’s hilarious, he sounds like he can’t believe who he works with as an evil overlord of sorts. Martin Short is also really hilarious as Ooblar, especially his introduction, and Billy West does quite a lot of roles, and does them very well, just to give a few specific cast members. A lot of the characters consist of typical stereotypes, like Jimmy’s parents consisting of the cautious housewife and the wacky father, there’s a teacher called Miss Fowl, who constantly make chicken noises, most of them silly and Miss Fowl is clearly one that was only there for one joke. Despite the predictable roles, the voice acting somehow works and I believe it’s because the entire cast must’ve had a real fun time playing all of the roles, and any kid watching this would have fun watching this too, I know I did, I’m having a hard time trying to find bad points of it.

As you know, I rarely review modern CGI films, while I don’t want to go on about why, but a reason is tha most go to pop culture and weak puns for comedy and musical numbers as entertainment. While that does entertain people, and there a few good CG animated films, to me it’s a weak attempt at making both kids and adults entertained and I’ve got an article on it on my new site. While this film does have a few puns, it surprisingly doesn’t go far, let alone go anywhere near, pop culture, there’s just pure cheesy humour, and it’s hard for me at least to hate it. The plot is pretty much what you expect when you have a scientific and nerdy character, so there isn’t anything original in the story. There is only one real issue in the film in general I have a problem with is the way the aliens avoid suspicion of parents disappearing; they post notes telling the kids all the parents went to Florida for a holiday, and all the kids believe it, including the genius Jimmy. These aliens don’t even try, and yet all it takes for Jimmy to realise something isn’t right with the message is by doing signature analysis, on a note which looks like it was produced on Microsoft Word. There is also the questionable techno babble and the plausibility of some of the scenes, but I believe that this film was meant to be for a younger audience, and I think it’s a good joke on Sci-Fi that the adults would get also.

Believe it or not, I saw this film twice as a kid. As a kids film, it works, and it works really well. Its humour is really good, the actors have a really good time, and it’s worth watching just for the early millennium kid experience. Sure there are issues here and there, as a reviewer I can’t help but notice them, but since this was a film built around a certain audience, it’s easy to forgive and hard to put down.

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is available from Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures. A spin-off TV series titled “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” which ran for two seasons, has occasional reruns on certain channels and DVDs are available from Nickelodeon and Amazon. Another spin-off TV series, which focuses on Jimmy’s friend Sheen Estevez called “Planet Sheen”, is currently airing, mainly by Nickelodeon but also by YTV in some parts of the world.

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