×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hey Arnold! The Movie

"Hey Arnold! The Movie" represents the latest transformation of a hit toon series from cable network Nickelodeon into a feature kidpic ripe for franchising. And, like its two "Rugrats" predecessors, pic has surprising hipness and good humor to spare, all put across with a funky, low-tech vibe.

With:
Voices: Arnold - Spencer Klein Helga/Deep Voice - Francesca Marie Smith Gerald/Rasta Guy - Jamil Walker Smith Grandpa/Nick Vermicelli - Dan Castellaneta Grandma/Mayor Dixie/Red - Tress MacNeille Scheck - Paul Sorvino Bridget - Jennifer Jason Leigh Coroner - Christopher Lloyd Mr. Bailey - Vincent Schiavelli Big Bob/Head of Security - Maurice LaMarche

Hey Arnold! The Movie” represents the latest transformation of a hit toon series from cable network Nickelodeon into a feature kidpic ripe for franchising. And, like its two “Rugrats” predecessors, pic has surprising hipness and good humor to spare, all put across with a funky, low-tech vibe. Still, this is a minor effort in both content and form by today’s animation standards, and its rough edges may be a bit too rough to attract a “Rugrats”-size stampede at the box office. But pic has lots of charm, and parents in attendance won’t feel too bored or alienated by its goings-on, while kids will lap it up. With a June 28 opening slated (counterprogrammed against Sony’s Adam Sandler starrer “Mr. Deeds”), niche biz looks promising for this, perhaps youngest-skewing of the major-studio summer releases.

A late addition to the family sidebar at the inaugural Tribeca Film Festival, pic proves an appropriate choice; though set in an unnamed metropolis, “Hey Arnold!” gives off a distinctly Gotham feel. Its city features crowded brownstones and rail transportation, while the working-class, multiethnic block where most of the action takes place vividly recalls Spike Lee’s Brooklyn.

Everything is a little topsy-turvy in the “Hey Arnold!” universe, beginning with its eponymous protagonist (voiced by Spencer Klein), whose elongated head suggests a flattened-out football and who lives (for reasons unexplained) with his borderline-senile grandparents in a ramshackle dormitory. Other key players are Arnold’s best friend Gerald (Jamil Walker Smith) and his semi-arch-nemesis Helga (Francesca Marie Smith), who secretly loves Arnold but cloaks her infatuation in hate.

Action centers around a maniacal land developer named Scheck has decided to bulldoze and redevelop Arnold’s neighborhood. Arnold and his neighbors exhaust official channels in their quest to halt the impending demolition, going so far as to stage a free outdoor concert — called Blockapalooza — that accomplishes nothing.

So, Arnold and Gerald (with a little surreptitious help from Helga) take matters into their own hands, embarking on a heroic odyssey through the city, during which they cross paths with such colorful characters as a Bond Girl-esque spy voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh and a ghostly city coroner voiced by Christopher Lloyd.

There’s definitely an odd grimness permeating the surface of “Hey Arnold!,” but it works. Pic has a genuine interest in engaging children’s imaginations, and understands a certain amount of dark goes well with the light. It’s not as twisted as, say, Roald Dahl, but it’s undeniably smart and appealing in its depiction of everyday superheroes rallying behind a noble cause. The acidic qualities nicely counterbalance the saccharine, and though there’s the hint of polemics — a civics lesson from the anti-gentrification brigade — the film never gets too high-minded. There’s genuine affection here for the virtues of neighborhood color preserved.

The animation, though hand-drawn, has an exaggerated flatness that gives “Hey Arnold!” an engaging look that seems to grow organically out of its characters’ quirky tics and moods. They pop out, literally and figuratively, from the traditional toon landscape.

Pic is peppered with amusing sly references to a disparate array of Hollywood blockbusters, from “Men in Black” to “All the President’s Men.”

Hey Arnold! The Movie

Animated

Production: A Paramount release of a Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies presentation of a Snee-Oosh production in association with Nickelodeon Animation Studios. Produced by Craig Bartlett, Albie Hecht. Executive producers, Marjorie Cohn, Julia Pistor. Co-producer, Joe Purdy. Co-executive producer, Steve Viksten. Directed by Tuck Tucker. Screenplay, Craig Bartlett, Steve Viksten, based on characters created by Bartlett. (Deluxe color)

Crew: Editor, Christopher Hink; music, Jim Lang; production designer, Guy Vasilovich; art director, Christine Kolosov; animation directors, Kolosov, Frank Weiss; supervising sound editor (Dolby/Dolby Digital/Dolby Surround), Timothy J. Borquez. Reviewed at Paramount Screening Room, New York, May 10, 2002. (in Tribeca Film Festival -- Family Festival) MPAA rating: PG. Running time: 75 MIN.

With: Voices: Arnold - Spencer Klein Helga/Deep Voice - Francesca Marie Smith Gerald/Rasta Guy - Jamil Walker Smith Grandpa/Nick Vermicelli - Dan Castellaneta Grandma/Mayor Dixie/Red - Tress MacNeille Scheck - Paul Sorvino Bridget - Jennifer Jason Leigh Coroner - Christopher Lloyd Mr. Bailey - Vincent Schiavelli Big Bob/Head of Security - Maurice LaMarche

More Film

  • Bradley Cooper A Star Is Born

    The Message of the Oscar Nominations: You'd Better Have a Social Message

    Each year at the Left Coast crack of dawn, when the Oscar nominations are announced, there’s generally at least one major nomination many pundits were predicting that fails to materialize. When that happens, entertainment media tends to rise up as one and say the s-word: snub. In truth, it’s not usually a snub; it’s just [...]

  • Elton John and Mark Ronson

    Elton John to 'Shallow' Songwriter Mark Ronson: 'You're Going to Win the Oscar'

    Elton John is willing to bet that Mark Ronson will win the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born.” The nominations were announced this morning. The legendary performer spoke to Ronson on the latest episode of his radio show “Elton John’s Rocket Hour” on Apple Music’s Beats 1.  More Reviews Concert [...]

  • Olivia Colman Colin Firth Helen Mirren

    Playing a British Monarch Is a Step on the Road to Oscar Glory - Again

    “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” Shakespeare wrote of Britain’s care-burdened monarchs. Try telling that to the Academy. Once again, playing British royalty has proved to be a tried-and-true route to Oscar glory, with Olivia Colman as the latest actor to be nominated for an Academy Award for portraying an occupant of the British [...]

  • Black Panther Movie

    Oscars: 'Black Panther' Leads Best Picture Nominees to Near-Record Box Office Grosses

    This year’s Academy Award nominees proved the Oscars don’t need a popular film category to recognize movies with huge box office grosses. The 2019 crop of best picture hopefuls have generated an impressive $1.26 billion so far in North America alone. That bounty is led by “Black Panther,” which earned a sensational $700 million at [...]

  • oscar nominations 2019 stream online

    How to Watch This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Films

    The 2019 Oscar nominations have been announced, and if you want to catch up on the nominees, we’ve rounded up some easy ways to watch or stream the original films, documentaries, and songs competing for an award. Period comedy “The Favourite” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” lead the pack with 10 nominations apiece, while “Green Book” [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Makes History for Poland

    Alfonso Cuaron might’ve tied an Oscar record with four nods to his name for “Roma,” which scored 10 nominations overall. But another black-and-white film in a foreign language, Pawel Pawlikowski’s jazz-infused romantic drama “Cold War,” was honored with three Academy Award nominations Tuesday, the most in history for a primarily Polish-backed production. The film will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content