Hey Arnold! The Movie (2002)

I’m a fan of the “Hey Arnold!” television animated series. I grew up with it. It’s one of Nickelodeon’s banner television shows about growing up. Sadly, what we see in “the movie,” is just a glorified three part TV special that’s mashed in to a movie. And it’s a god awful closer for such a great show. What the animated series thrived on was the large cast of magnetic characters from the neighborhood, but this fails to bring anything truly magnetic to audiences to watch. “Hey Arnold! The Movie” is a half-assed effort that does no justice all around to a truly entertaining cartoon. What many of the executives at Nickelodeon do with their products when making them into feature films is completely take away what made the cartoon so likable to begin with.

The “Rugrats” films are terrible, especially the first film which was mean-spirited and surprisingly grim, so “Hey Arnold!” becomes a major faux pas as it takes away the large cast of characters that drew me to the cartoon to begin with. It focuses on the character of Arnold only, who was never really an interesting character, and Gerald who is really funny, but hardly enough of a character to focus on. There are some rather funny moments that kept me entertained and some funny scenes including Gerald fainting after looking at a dead body, Arnold and Gerald’s attempt to catch the eye of the sexy spy Bridget (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and Big Bob’s obsession with his contract looking for errors or hidden guidelines.

While there a very few memorably funny scenes in the story, none of it seems to click and you begin to wonder why it wasn’t shown directly on television. This is more of a blatant attempt to market on the forgotten series’ name, a momentum clearly lost during the viewing. No one remembers “Hey Arnold!” anymore so it’s difficult to get people to watch this. What also becomes annoying during the story is the immense amount of violence added to the material. There’s a cringe inducing and rather violent fight between Big Bob and his slimy agent, and much more. There’s even a scene involving a morgue in which Arnold and Gerald must seek council from an eccentric and creepy mortician (Christopher Lloyd) and we actually manage to see some of the dead bodies.

Why are you showing dead bodies on a children’s cartoon? Why would the writers even think of including such a gruesome scene? Also there are surprisingly sexual references including one scene where Helga finally confesses her love to Arnold. There are some truly talented actors cast as characters in the film that are wasted, including Paul Sorvino and Jennifer Jason Leigh, they’re just wasted or mishandled. There’s simply no need for this other than a cash grab. “Hey Arnold! The Movie” is the worst adaptation of what was once a great Nickelodeon show. It’s just disgraceful from beginning to end.