“Hey Arnold! The Movie” is as unimaginative as its title and far too long at 74 minutes. Hard core fans of the television series (if there are any) will enjoy seeing the characters on the big screen, but anyone else, particularly those who’ve seen a movie or two, are going to be bored with the characters, the animation, and the utterly predictable chain of events.
“Hey Arnold!” finds its football-headed hero with a heart of gold in a save-the-neighborhood situation. A big bad wolf industrialist named Scheck (voiced by Paul Sorvino) wants to turn Arnold’s happy suburb into a “mall-plex.” Most of the adults reluctantly sell their homes, but Arnold arranges benefits does research on how to save the town, undiscouraged by Scheck’s constant attempts to crush him and the pessimism of everyone else. He eventually finds out about a Boston Tea Party-esque event that occurred in his town during the revolutionary war and works to get the town saved as a historical landmark.
There’s nothing remotely new or exiting about the plot, and nearly all of the situations are annoyingly dumb. Kids may enjoy seeing Arnold save the day, but adults will snooze through it, due to a storyline everyone’s seen before, animation that is below the “Fat Albert” level, and characters that range from uninteresting to unappealing. There are some amusing voice cameos from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Christopher Lloyd, as well as timely references to Men in Black II and The Hulk. And if anyone these days comes close to being Mel Blanc, its Dan Castellaneta (“The Simpsons”), who gives wildly different characters such genuine personality that one would never guess that they come from the same guy. If only those voices had a better script.
Parent should know that “Hey Arnold!” is just violent enough to get a PG rating, but there’s really nothing that most kids over six can’t handle. More disturbing are the stereotyped characters, from Arnold’s best friend/token black kid Gerald to Arnold’s grandparents to a one-legged bus driver.
Families can discuss what exactly it is that keeps Arnold so positive during such stressful times, and why his neighbor Helga (who looks and acts almost exactly like Rugrats’ Angelica) feels the need to hide her crush on Arnold by being mean to him.
Families who like this movie will probably enjoy the other Nickelodeon films, from the animated Rugrats, Doug’s 1st Movie and Jimmy Neutron to the live-action Snow Day and Harriet the Spy.