Style and substance are well-suited in this 3-D computer animation story about a 6th grade whiz kid who can build a satellite communications system out of a toaster and create a robot dog that when told to “play dead” blows itself up and then puts itself back together.
Jimmy has created gadgets for every purpose, from a combination planetary-mobile/bedmaker to bouncing bubble transportation device and a girl-eating plant. When other kids bring toys for show and tell, Jimmy Neutron brings a shrinking ray. The kids at school laugh at him and tease him about being short, except for his friends, Carl (overweight and asthmatic) and Shane (a passionate fan of some action heroes called Ultra Lords). Jimmy does not get along very well with a very smart girl named Cindy or a tough kid named Nick. When their parents forbid them to go to a theme park on a school night, Jimmy and his friends sneak. The next morning, their parents are gone, leaving mysteriously identical notes saying that they’ve gone to Florida. At first, the kids are thrilled. But after a day of doing everything they are not allowed to do — going up the down escalator, letting the cold air out of the refrigerator, wearing clothes that don’t match, making messes, and eating lots of candy, the kids are scared and lonely. Some slimy green aliens encased in egg-shaped flying capsules kidnap all the kids’ parents so they can feed them to a monster shaped like a chicken with three eyes. Jimmy builds rockets to take them all into space, rescues the kids when they are captured and put in the dungeon, frees the parents, and arranges their escape.
The animation is done by computer. Instead of going for the more lifelike textures of the Pixar movies, this has the intentionally stylized feel of a computer game. That fits the story’s tone, somewhere between the “Tomorrowland” 1950’s ideal of the future and today’s world of cell phones and headphones. Jimmy’s spaceship and the alien planet owe more to Flash Gordon and the Jetsons than to contemporary rocket science and astronomy.
The music, too, has songs that will be familiar to parents (The Ramones and The Go-Go’s) along with today’s teen dreams (N’Sync, The Backstreet Boys, and Aaron Carter).
Parents should know that the movie, while rated G, may be too scary for younger kids. It also has some crude bodily function jokes which were a big hit with the kids at the screening I attended. I asked a bunch of them after the movie what they liked best, and all agreed that it was the scene with all the burping. The movie has some smart female characters, including Jimmy’s mechanic mother, and kids of different races are friends and support each other.
The movie drags a bit in the middle, and adults may find themselves checking their watches. But most kids, especially those from 8-12, will find it fun, if forgettable.
Families who see the movie should talk about what makes kids make fun of each other for being different. If the parents in your family disappeared for a day, which rules would your children break? How does Jimmy learn from his mistakes?
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the Toy Story movies.