In 2001, the animated movie Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius launched a technology to the wacky prodigy and his quirky associates. Fans of the Nickelodeon sequence The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius can thank the film’s box-office success for enabling the present’s three-year run: Unlike different Nickelodeon films, like Rugrats in Paris or The Wild Thornberrys film, Jimmy Neutron was the beginning of the story, as an alternative of a theatrical extension of it. In retrospect, although, whereas Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius got here out in theaters (and was nominated for the first-ever Academy Award for greatest Animated Feature), it feels extra like a TV film. It’s a zany light-hearted romp that did an amazing job of organising Jimmy’s future adventures, to the purpose the place the present arguably left fonder recollections than the film that sparked it. (At least, judging by a casual Slack survey of Polygon staffers.)
Netflix’s new animated musical characteristic Arlo the Alligator Boy falls into that very same field. Ryan Crago’s directorial debut is a candy journey with an underlying message about folks staying true to themselves. Like the Jimmy Neutron film did 20 years in the past, Arlo introduces a wacky forged of characters and a wealthy world that in the end serves extra as a protracted pilot episode than as a theatrical film, given the way it spends many of the film introducing characters, settings, and ideas with out absolutely growing them. That’s left for the upcoming Netflix tv sequence, which can proceed Arlo’s adventures.)
[Ed. Note: This put up incorporates mild setup spoilers for Arlo the Alligator Boy.]
Arlo the Alligator Boy follows the titular younger alligator-human hybrid, who’s been raised within the swamp by a girl named Edmée (Annie Potts), however desires of a world behind his bayou. Arlo (Michael J. Woodward) quickly learns that he’s really from New York City — Edmée discovered him when he was only a child, adrift in an deserted floating basket like a scaly inexperienced Moses. Arlo units off on a quest to seek out his father, and alongside the way in which meets mild giantess Bertie (Mary Lambert), together with a gang of misfits led by Teeny Tiny Tony (Tony Hale), a small Italian man who seems to be half rodent. They enterprise up the Eastern seaboard and land in New York City, the place Arlo finally learns some essential issues about his previous.
Teeny Tiny Tony’s associates are an eclectic bunch, every with a definite persona. In quick order, Arlo meets the sentient pink hairball Furlecia (Jonathan Van Ness), the starry-eyed tiger-girl Alia (Haley Tju), and the strolling, speaking fish Marcellus (Brett Gelman). The film largely serves to arrange this forged, introducing them and hinting at their dynamics, however other than Bertie, who meets Arlo first and will get her personal parallel character arc, not one of the others actually get an opportunity to command the highlight. After all, that is Arlo’s origin story. But the hints concerning the potential of this kooky forged is simply one of many causes Arlo the Alligator Boy feels extra like a TV film than a theatrical one. The supporting characters slide into the story a little bit too late to make a big impact, however they’re fascinating sufficient to recollect after the very fact.
There’s a storybook softness within the film’s settings, from the golden-swathed bayou the place Arlo grows as much as the bioluminescent algae of a seaside within the Carolinas. The film colours the world in the identical heat glow that Arlo feels as he ventures out of his swamp for the primary time, encountering seemingly mundane issues like prepare rides and ice-cream sundaes, which simply appear wonderful to him. While the character designs are wacky and fantastical, the setting is rooted in actuality. The real-world places really feel elevated and simply as vigorous and spunky because the characters themselves.
The musical numbers are significantly attractive, particularly the infectious pop duet Bertie and Arlo sing whereas dancing within the glowing bioluminescent algae. Arlo is the type of character who steadily breaks out in tune and pulls everybody round him into the quantity, then makes use of these songs to push the plot alongside. The musical interludes don’t decelerate the story, however other than that Arlo/Bertie duet, they’re largely weightless sufficient to not get caught in viewers’ head. (That may really be a perk.)
Ultimately, every part about Arlo the Alligator Boy looks like a setup for one thing but to return. That isn’t an inherently unhealthy factor, nevertheless it does shift the viewers’s expectations for the film.
The songs are enjoyable and the message of discovered household and celebrating variations is nice. But the group’s entire journey to New York is simply extended exposition, designed to introduce the principle gamers and locations for the eventual present. The actual inciting incident of the Arlo saga isn’t Arlo leaving the swamp, it’s the finale of the film. While Arlo finds his father, there are nonetheless extra mysteries to uncover. (Like who the hell is his mother, and why doesn’t that query ever happen to him?!) It feels just like the creators behind Arlo aren’t exhibiting their full palms, they’re protecting their playing cards shut. That gamble might flip off some viewers, even because it speaks to the wealthy potential of the enjoyable world Crago has created.
Arlo the Alligator Boy is now streaming on Netflix.