Scheduled to piggyback on the latest “SpongeBob SquarePants” special, the title for Nickelodeon’s “Fanboy and Chum Chum” turns out to be significantly more inviting than the actual show. Destined for a regular Saturday-morning berth, this frenetic series mixes computer and “squash and stretch” animation to concoct an appealing-enough look, but the premiere proves thematically muddled — relying more on noise than coherence.
Fanboy (voiced by David Hornsby) is described as a comicbook-loving 11-year-old boy, but other than the superhero costume he wears in class (a kind of “El Kabong” look), you’d be hard-pressed to grasp any of that from the two 11-minute shorts in the premiere. He’s flanked at all times by his sidekick Chum Chum (Nika Futterman) — the Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote, or, perhaps more aptly, the Phineas to his Ferb.
In the first part, Fanboy jousts with a new kid who claims to be an actual wizard, yielding a vague Harry Potter riff that never really takes shape. The second story has a classmate offering to trade Fanboy a coveted action figure in exchange for Chum Chum, which, again, doesn’t yield much more than a whole lot of screaming. And while that formula sometimes works for kids, parents will be sent from the room emitting a similar sound.
Created by Eric Robles, the series has a bright, energetic look and even an appealing premise in theory, capitalizing on the avidness of young boys blessed (or cursed) with the fan gene. If only the show did more to crystallize that point, instead of bouncing around like a member of its target audience desperately in need of Ritalin.
There’s no telling, of course, what will grab children’s fancy. After all, who could have initially predicted “SpongeBob’s” improbable endurance? Still, unless the stories become considerably stronger, it’s difficult to imagine “Fanboy” earning many fanboys of its own.