Paramount // 2002 // 75 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // January 21st, 2003
A big problem calls for a big head.
America's favorite football-headed kid jumps to the big screen in a film that never panders to the perceived youthfulness of its core audience. Hey Arnold! The Movie uses unique characters, clever writing, crisp animation, and a handful of high profile character voices to engage and entertain kids of all ages.
One rather unassuming summer afternoon, Arnold's inner city neighborhood is turned upside down, as a ruthless corporate giant moves in and sets up shop. Under the guise of "Change is Good," the evil Mr. Scheck (Paul Sorvino, Nixon) unveils plans to level multiple blocks of long standing businesses and residences to make way for his newest mega-mall. With the mayor in his back pocket, Scheck begins a 30-day countdown to destruction. Strong-arming hesitant residents with threats and promises, only the kids are willing to stand up and fight to save the only home they've ever known. Rallying the troops, Arnold (Spencer Klein, Mother) and his best friend Gerald (Jamil Walker Smith, Halfway Decent), come up with several ideas to gain support for their cause. From a "Save the Neighborhood" petition campaign, to an attention gathering "Block-a-palooza" music festival, to obtaining "historical landmark" status for the neighborhood, Arnold and his friends are foiled at every turn. Just when it seems all hope may be lost, the boys receive inside information from the mysterious "Deep Voice." Will it be enough to defeat the evil Scheck? How will Arnold's arch-nemesis Helga (Francesca Smith, A Bug's Life) sabotage their efforts for her own personal gain? What last minute, secret plan does Grandpa and his pals have up their support hose? And what the heck happened to Granny after she broke out of prison?
Created by talented writer Craig Bartlett (Rugrats), Hey Arnold! has become one of Nickelodeon's most popular series. Having never watched the show, I must admit I was not looking forward to sitting through 75 minutes of big screen kiddie television. Boy, was I wrong! Bartlett and writing partner Steve Viksten (Rugrats) take what would otherwise be a highly clichéd and overdone plot and turn it into a hilariously clever adventure that nearly plays on the same level as Matt Groening's The Simpsons. Chock-full of pop culture references to Men in Black, Blazing Saddles, Speed, The Incredible Hulk, and more, the film has as much interest for the adults (if not more) than it does for the kids. The pacing drags a little in Act One, but accelerates towards a rewarding climax with performances by Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) as the city's morbid mortician, Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female) as the techno spy queen Bridget, and Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons) as Grandpa and the weasly Nick Vermicelli.
Give Bartlett, Viksten, and director Tuck Tucker credit. What was marketed as a movie for 8-10 year olds plays well for film lovers well into their 60s. Presented in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full screen, the transfer is sharp, with truly vibrant colors and rock solid blacks. Toss in a fantastic Dolby 5.1 audio track, the film's original theatrical trailer, and a blatantly obvious commercial for Paramount's forthcoming Charlotte's Web 2 (oy vey!) disguised as a cursor driven game, and you have a one surprisingly good package. A little pricey as a purchase ($29.99), but highly recommended as a family rental. A heck of a lot better way to spend 75 minutes than the 65th viewing of Disney's Beauty and the Beast -- Enchanted Christmas. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* Interactive Game -- Charlotte's Web 2
* Official Site