Kids just wanna have fun!
Arthur J Pais
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius arrived at cinema halls across America with so little a buzz that many box-office experts expected it to fade away in no time. Some even joked the studio feared that Jimmy would be a Neutron bomb - and hence a low profile release.
But the 3-D movie, which cost about $ 23 million, has almost reached the break-even figure in less than two weeks, and is on its way to a profitable run. It is nowhere as inventive as Shrek or Monsters, Inc but the modestly entertaining film deserves more recognition.
Most of the big-time critics gave the film a middling rating but it is flying well with kids and their parents. It ranked fourth this week at the box-office, grossed an impressive $ 15 million and upped its cumulative earnings to $ 42 million.
The 3-D hit is set in Retroville that seems to be coolest place on earth. The design is all atomic '50s retro, but the kids have computers - and some of them are craving for a few more liberties than what their parents can allow them.
Jimmy (voiced by Debi Derryberry), our geek hero, is a mastermind of several dazzling inventions. He is light years ahead of his classmates but many of his peers keep away from him. He is too big a nerd.
No surprise then his only friends are the equally geeky, asthmatic Carl (Rob Paulsen) and a squarish Sheen (Jeff Garcia). Jimmy's foil is Cindy (Carolyn Lawrence), a bright and highly competitive student. But Jimmy's greatest ally is Goddard, his highly resourceful mechanical dog
When the kids hear about the opening of Retroland, they want to go and freak out -- not unexpectedly their parents veto the idea.
"What good is it being a genius if you can't get out on a school night?" Jimmy wonders.
Jimmy and his friends are delighted when the aliens (voices of Martin Short and Patrick Stewart) abduct the parents and transport them to their distant planet. They celebrate their freedom, stuffing themselves with sweets and wearing outrageous clothes. But when their stomachs churn and their knees and elbows are bruised, they get no help.
The movie turns into a rescue adventure now. It also offers a few life lessons: While Jimmy and his friends celebrate their freedom, they also begin to miss their parents. Now, everyone turns to Jimmy.
Jimmy starts with transforming the amusement park into a fleet of rocket ships that will fight the aliens.
The modestly budgeted movie doesn't have the grand look of a Harry Potter but it is pleasant to the eyes. The adventures are thrilling and amusing too.
And though it gets sentimental, it's never overwhelming. Jimmy, who has to fight against being misunderstood, is a lovable figure. But the filmmakers haven't made him too saccharine.
The first half hour of the film visits a familiar theme: the conflict between children's drive for self-empowerment and their parents' opposition. But it is seldom didactic. And in the second half, when the children feel guilty of wishing away their parents, it doesn't become too mushy either.
The 87-minute long film certainly has faith in the intelligence of its audience, children and their parents.