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'Jimmy Neutron'

'Jimmy Neutron' blasts onto screens with an action-packed 3-D debut

Friday, December 21, 2001

By Scott Mervis, Weekend Editor, Post-Gazette

You've got to wonder what parenting manuals are on the shelves in the Neutron household. Mom and Dad Neutron won't allow wonder boy Jimmy to go to the opening of the new Retroland Amusement Park on a school night. But they get too bent out of shape when he blasts through the neighborhood in a homemade rocket, crashing into the roof and destroying the family car.

 
 
'Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius'

RATING: G.

STARRING: Voices of Debi Derryberry, Martin Short, Patrick Stewart

DIRECTOR: John A. Davis

WEB SITE: www.nick.com
/jimmy_neutron

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

This is all transpiring as we meet our hero in "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," a last-minute 3-D animated Christmas present from the folks at Nickelodeon. It hits theaters with a modest amount of buzz and at an odd time, too late to cash in on Christmas with the boy wizard, green ogre and furry blue ape.

Did Nick's hype machine fall asleep on the job? Did they fear "Jimmy" would be a "Neutron" bomb? That the rugrats wouldn't cuddle up to the little brainiac?

Not at all. Nick has big plans for its boy genius, including a TV series with a line of toys to launch in the fall of 2002.

If this movie as any indication, "Jimmy Neutron" is going to be big -- big as his head. It's not going to bump "Shrek" off the top 10 lists, but every one of its 75 minutes is a blast, more crowd-pleasing fun than can be had with old Sully and Mike Wazowski.

Director/producer John A. Davis, a relative newcomer, and producer Steve Oedekerk, who wrote the "Nutty Professor" movies and the very funny Tim Robbins-Martin Lawrence comedy "Nothing to Lose," collaborated on the screenplay and in the creation of Retroville -- just about coolest place on earth. The design is all atomic '50s retro, but the kids have computers, Gameboys and the Ramones, too.

Looking like Big Boy's little brother, Jimmy (Debi Derryberry) is a geek hero who would be really impressive on show-and-tell days if only his inventions didn't slightly misfire. He has a Batman-like lab downstairs where he Jimmy-rigs gadgets as diverse as his robotic dog Goddard, bubble travel, burping soda and a remote-control device that could reduce, say, a cranky teacher down to the size of a paper clip.

Jimmy's best friend is the tubby, asthmatic and hilariously nervous Carl Wheezer (Rob Paulsen), who reluctantly goes along with Jimmy's schemes, even if it means getting stuck hanging upside-down in trees. His other friend, Sheen, lives his life in accordance with what his idol, superhero Ultra-Lord, would do. And then there's Miss Perfect, Cindy, and the Fonzie character, Nick, who coolly tells the ancient Miss Fowl, "I don't do show and tell."

With the characters and settings perfectly in place, all "Jimmy Neutron" needed was a plot, and they stitched one together from "Invaders from Mars," "Spy Kids," "The Jetsons" and a bunch of other films. When the kids hear about the opening of Retroland, naturally they want to go and naturally their parents say no. "What good is it being a genius if you can't get out on a school night?" Jimmy wonders.

Turns out, the kids of Retroville get a taste of what life would be like without moms and dads when they are parent-napped by an egg-headed alien race called the Yokians -- voices of Patrick Stewart and Martin Short -- that Jimmy Neutron had innocently contacted.

For a day the kids go wild, to the beat of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop," eating all the sweets they want and wearing clothes that don't match. When their tummies hurt and knees get scraped, they realize their loss and it's up to Jimmy to lead them on an interstellar rescue mission.

Their flotilla into space, like much of "Jimmy Neutron," is eye candy that shows how far computer animation has come since even "Toy Story 2" a year ago. Created by DNA Productions in a Dallas studio, this is the first 3-D animation movie to be made outside of Hollywood, and they keep it bright and colorful with a sleek sense of design.

The movie stays funny even after the action adventure kicks in, and just the right (small) amount of sentiment is introduced into Jimmy, a hero who struggles with being misunderstood as well as undersized.

As for the story line, it may prove to be a little too intriguing for some viewers.

Heard in the car on the way home from the precocious pre-teen: "You know the part where the kids take over? I think that looked kinda cool."

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