The impact that Nickelodeon has had on children's entertainment cannot be denied. Ever since they started making their own original cartoons in 1991, they've dominated households around the world with insane characters and memorable plot lines that have managed to entertain children and their parents for over thirty years and some have made their way to the big screen. There also have been attempts to start one of their shows on the big screen instead and the first one to do that was "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" back in 2001. I remember vividly watching the show as a very young kid and enjoying it not knowing that it had a film until years later and I remember enjoying it. I hadn't watched the film in years so I was curious to see if the film still held up and I was surprised to discover that I was still entertained by it. While it certainly isn't a perfect film and some parts certainly don't work, I still found myself enjoying the film and can see why it spawned a successful show afterward.
In the town of Retroville, a boy genius named Jimmy Neutron (Debi Derryberry) has been trying to fit in at school. Despite having friends like the shy Carl (Rob Paulsen) and hyperactive Sheen (Jeffery Garcia), he's often picked on for his failed inventions by his rival Cindy (Carolyn Lawrence) and popular kid Nick (Candi Milo). One day, Jimmy and his friends discover that an amusement park named Retroland is opening and all of his classmates want to be there and wants to go badly. However, his parents (Megan Cavanaugh and Mark DeCarlo) refuse since it's a school night and ground him when an invention goes haywire in the house. Jimmy decides to instead sneak out of the house to go to the park, unaware that his parents and all the grown-ups in Retroville are abducted by aliens led by King Goobert V (Patrick Stewart) after a satellite made by Jimmy is intercepted by them. While all the kids rebel with their parents gone, they soon grow to miss them and are determined to get them back when they discover they've been abducted. From there, Jimmy and his classmates go off into space to find the aliens and get their parents back before it's too late.
As I've stated at the beginning of the review, I hadn't seen this film in a long time so I was curious to see how well it holds up and for me, I think it does. It seemed like a risky move to try to launch a television series with an animated film for the pilot, but this is a film that works unlike Nickelodeon's future attempts like the exceptionally unfunny "Barnyard" in 2006 and the shockingly unpleasant "Wonder Park" in 2019. I think the reason why this film works so well is that while the story is simple and isn't the most creative of premises, it has a lot of charm and quirky humor to keep it afloat. This is a story that has been done before where children wish they didn't have parents around and were by themselves and realize their mistake when that actually happens and wish for them back ("Home Alone" comes to mind), but I think the film has enough zany energy and fun mayhem that helps it work twenty years later. The film uses its simplicity to its advantage and I think the message intended for kids is still very good all these years later. There's a lot of fun and quirky moments in the film, particularly involving Jimmy's inventions like his daily routine where he gets ready to go to school and the scene where the kids rebel without having parents set to the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop". The story isn't 100% solid though as I do think some of the scenes could've had a bit more added to them and I think there needed to be a bit more time and dedication put into the slower moments though I think where the story did stumble was the climax which was mostly not entirely engaging and lacked tension as it felt over way too quickly and I didn't think there was a lot at stake. However, it still feels solid overall and I did enjoy it for the most part. As far as the animation goes, it sadly hasn't aged quite the best as it should. The computer animation in the film has definitely shown its age and certainly looks behind the times even by 2001 standards. I do like the set design of the film and I think it aged rather well and I do think the character designs themselves are interesting particularly the look of the aliens, but the models of the human characters have really shown their age. The characters look a lot like plastic and sometimes look a bit like bobbleheads and certainly looked outdated for the time compared to groundbreaking techniques that were used on "Shrek" and "Monsters Inc" the very same year. I think it's probably due to the film's low budget of $30 million which was about the budget that "Toy Story" had back in 1995 and its use of the commercial computer-animated software compared to the in-house software created by studios like Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky. I commend Nickelodeon and director John A. Davis for taking a chance and working to the best of their abilities to make the film look as good as it can, but it's sadly not as amazing as it should be. It looks like a film that probably would've come out in the 90s around the time "Toy Story" came out. This leads me into talking about the characters which I will say that I did enjoy like the story. While the personalities of characters like Jimmy, Carl, Sheen, and Cindy are a bit typical and have been done before, I think they are fun characters to watch and have some funny moments like Sheen constantly showing off his Ultra Lord action figure for show and tell and Cindy being a master of karate and doing stellar kicks after drinking a soda. I also found Jimmy quite likable as a protagonist too as while he is the smartest kid in the class, he doesn't come across as a showoff and trying too hard to impress. I also found the villain of King Goobert funny at times with Patrick Stewart having fun playing an over-the-top villain, though I do think he should've been a bit more menacing and done a lot more than he did. I will say that the character of Nick is probably the one character I wasn't a huge fan of as he didn't do a whole lot for the story and was only there for the characters to either contemplate their decision or to swoon over. Still though, that's about it.
In all, "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" is still a fun film to watch. While the animation hasn't aged the best, it does have a fun story and quirky characters to keep it afloat which makes it still watchable twenty years later. It's a good introduction to the cartoon and it also works well as a standalone film and is a stellar film from Nickelodeon that I do recommend if you're curious. It may not be a total blast, but it's still fun in its own way, and that's what I think matters most.