MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE REVIEW: “Phineas and Ferb: Across The 2nd Dimension” 2011

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I’m always hesitant when they do a movie version of a cartoon. Why? Because in cartoons, the format is an intrinsic, unavoidable part of the storytelling. Think of a haiku: It’s a very rigid format. If you want to stick six more lines in there, it ain’t a haiku. Loony Toons work great as a series of seven-minute shorts, but blowing them up into a feature film just doesn’t work, and there are plenty examples of exactly how pronouncedly they don’t work. Likewise, an animated sitcom like The Simpsons works great as a 22-minute episode, but it pretty much sucks as a 90 minute movie. On the other hand, sometimes you get something like Sponge Bob, which works as a series of 11-minute shorts, and it doesn’t totally suck as a movie, but it’s definitely a case of “why bother?”

My point being that feature-length adaptations of short-format subjects tend to run the gamut from terrible to “Meh,” and a good one is very, very, very rare. So, naturally, I was pretty hesitant about this Phineas and Ferb thing. Their forays outside their format - such as their Christmas Special - just really didn’t work, soooo, y’know, low expectations. I figured a few good lines, maybe a funny song, maybe one good slapstick action sequence, and an hour or so of padding.

Man, was I wrong!

By the climax of the film, all my kids were exclaiming stuff like “This is the best thing they’ve ever done!” and I was totally alongside them in that. This really *is* the best thing P&F have ever done.

Ordinarily I’d digress into a lengthy-yet-humorous explanation of what the series is about for the benefits of all the hippie freakshows and reprobates who *don’t* watch cartoons after age 30, but I’ve got carpal tunnel really bad, so just go here if you want to come up to speed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_and_Ferb

Suffice to say that the show is the tightest, funniest, most rigid-yet-flexible thing Disney’s ever done, and it is freakin’ awesome, far and away the funniest and smartest show on TV right now, and that includes live action stuff. The film continues that tradition and even raises the bar some.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the story, suffice to say that the kids and Perry end up in an alternate dimension where Professor Doofenschmirtz’s plans for urban domination have been vastly more successful. Hilarity (And some good action sequences) ensue, but the real prize here is the look at alternate-world versions of our characters: Isabella and the Firefly Girls as the resistance (With bandoliers full of bullets, rather than their usual girl scout patch sashes), Candace as a surprisingly kickass and serviceable heroine, Doof as a competent and somewhat cavalier villain, and so on. The interaction between these character and their better (And occasionally worse) selves is priceless and funny.

As always, it involves a lot of SF themes and Spy-Fi stuff.

For pathos, we get a significant subplot about Perry having to say goodbye to the boys forever once they find out his secret and his cover is blown. It is surprisingly moving for a comedy film (well, ok, it’s not moving, but it’s deeper than it needs to be, which is, of course, the secret of this whole series: it’s smarter than it needs to be). And we actually get to see Phineas *angry* which is strangely satisfying.

There are just a zillion great in-jokes and references: Star Wars Rescue of Princess Lea, Batman, Star Trek’s “Mirror Mirror,” the Terminator, all the obvious tropes and homages are there, but there’s so many of ‘em, and they’re flying by so quickly that I’m sure there were a lot I missed, and many more that I simply didn’t get. There’s even an out-of-nowhere Red Dawn nod that had me laughing uncontrollably for so long I missed the next several lines of dialog.

There’s also a ton of interior continuity, cameos, and in-jokes about the series itself. Past gadgets galore. Ever wonder where the Baby Heads come from? You’ll find out. What about the place that Doof’s transported cars go to? We see more of that.

It is just great, great, great stuff, great enough to function as a series finale, but, best of all: It isn’t! The series continues. I can not recommend this highly enough.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS MOVIE?

It’s family friendly, adventurous, funny, the pure-of-heart good guys overcome the evil bad guys, an oppressive dictatorship is overthrown, the bad guys are forced to pay for their crimes against humanity, I mean, really, what’s not to like?

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