Gather 'round, kids of all ages, and take a taste from this lazy Susan tray
of Nickelodeon treats. Some are super yummy but others are a bit stale. Let's
see if you can find one or two that particularly tickle your tummy.
All Grown Up!—"Lucky 13"
Those Rugrats kids
have shed their diapers and are ready to manage the social minefield of
Pre-Teenagerdom. Here, we see a clash of the titans as one of the most popular
kids in the school has planned a swinging party on the same day that spoiled and
snotty Angelica is celebrating her momentous 13th birthday bash. This one's all
right, and the Rugrats do translate reasonably well to the grammar school
hallways. Unfortunately, the humor, safe as it is (usually appreciated by this
reviewer), tends to fall uniformly flat. (Grade: C+)
Spongebob Squarepants—"Spongebob B.C."
special prehistoric show with live-action segments featuring Patchy the Pirate
as he tries to impart the modern-day relevance of the discoveries made by
cavemen, cavewomen, and other cave-critters. Meanwhile, it's a trip to the dawn
of time under the sea as Sponge-gar, Pat-ar, and Sqog grunt and grumble in
hunger until they discover the miracle of fire and how everything tastes better
kabob style. Really, it's a rather weak double-length episode made worse by the
live-action Patchy segments. Spongebob is usually better than this so it's
unclear why this particular episode was chosen for this disc. (Grade: B-)
Fairly OddParents—"Information Stuporhighway"
Timmy Turner is hyper little boy who has a crush on the standoffish Trixie.
Timmy's folks convince him that a special email message is the best way to
Trixie's heart, combining sweet romanticism with a well-measured bit of
threatening tone. But when Mom and Dad send the "threat-mantic"
overture on its way, the mortified Timmy wishes his fairly odd fairy godparents
to whisk him into Cyberspace itself to intercept the email before Trixie can
open it. But—look out!—the creepy schoolteacher, Mr. Crocker, who's
determined to expose and exploit the true existence of fairies, is also prowling
around the 'Net and is eager to put the byte on Timmy's magical mentors. This is
a fun episode that offers a fun kids-eye-view of the Internet. It's good enough
for repeat viewing. (Grade: A)
The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron—"Jimmy Timmy Power
The 3-D and 2-D animation worlds collide when Timmy Turner (of
Fairly OddParents) is woefully behind on completing his science project
and summarily wishes for access to the greatest laboratory in the world. Of
course, he lands smack dab in the middle of brainy Jimmy Neutron's secret lair
and, in so doing, displaces Neutron into the 2-D world while Timmy enjoys the
new sensation of being "bulgy" in a 3-D animated existence. This one's
really more like Fairly OddParents than Jimmy Neutron, and it
works quite well. Running a double-episode length, it's a fun dual-adventure and
amusing to see each character rendered in a different style. This is another
that's good for additional viewings. (Grade: B+)
Danny Phantom—"Bitter Reunions"
Gap rears its ugly head in this episode that finds genetically altered and now
ghostly Danny Phantom at odds with his super-scientific parents. Realizing
they've never shared details of their childhood with young Danny, Mom and Dad
decide to invite the boy along to their college reunion. Unfortunately, this
serves as an ill-fated trip down Memory Lane: the evil Vlad Plasmius, a rival of
Danny's dad from two decades past, was also genetically altered in an accident
similar to that which rendered Danny part ecto-plasmic. It's a reasonably
entertaining episode but the overall premise of the show is a bit stretched to
perform suitably for any length of time. Besides, we've seen most of this shtick
in Ghostbusters. (Grade: B-)
My Life as a Teenage Robot—"Hostile Makeover"
Heroic Jenny the robot is in dire straits. The evil Cluster Legion has infected
this girl gizmo with a mechanical parasite that's slowly turning her into a
hideous, monstrous, female-robot-thing. I don't really care for this cartoon
much; it comes off as a Powerpuff Girls rip-off and is clearly hoping to
draw in the young girl viewers. The humor is pretty trite and, really, it's
nothing you haven't seen before. (Grade: C-)
Their parents consider
these babies and toddlers mere infants, yet this crowd of pint-sized playmates
speaks freely and fluently among themselves when the big people aren't around.
In this episode, little Chuckie fears his life is in danger of following the
pattern of Cinderella after Angelica points out that the bespectacled boy has a
stepmom and stepsister. Much like the latter All Grown Up!, this flagship
show was cute in its notion of the clandestine grown-up adventures of this
collection of curtain crawlers but its humor never really develops much past its
ability to elicit a slight smile and occasional snicker. (Grade: C)
There are some definite hits and misses in this collection but what's most
confounding is why the "pu-pu platter" approach here when Paramount
already has a bevy of Nicktoon discs in release. Having not sampled all of the
Nicktoon discs, I'm not certain whether the episodes included here are available
elsewhere and, to that end, this disc might merit a look as way to sample some
of Nickelodeon's product. Having said this, I could likely recommend Fairly
OddParents above all others with The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron and
Spongebob Squarepants tying for second place (although this episode of
Spongebob is pretty bad). The others are pretty much retreads of themes and
concepts already at work elsewhere and, personally, the Rugrats kids just don't
have much appeal to me nor do they seem to be able to hold the interest of my
own rug rats.
From a technical perspective, though, this is a pretty impressive disc. The
full screen transfers here are especially sharp, vivacious, and free of any
significant compression artifacts. This helps the disc along as it really is a
treat for the eyes and one of the better animation presentations of this sort
that I've seen. The audio isn't as "boffo" but it's good nonetheless
thanks to an energetic Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix that suits the on-screen
images quite well. All in all, it's a well rendered, well managed disc that,
based solely on technical qualities, would merit a recommendation. There are no
extras here, not even a feigned "bonus 'toon."
All in all, there are certainly some decent shows within the Nicktoon stable
while others are certainly forgettable. This new disc makes it easy to draw the
distinction among them and, if you're curious to sample the Nick wares, then I'd
recommend a rental so you can discover which shows appeal most to you.