Los Angeles Times

Movie review, 'Hey Arnold! The Movie'

Urban renewal gets the Saturday-morning-cartoon treatment in this big-screen adaptation of the likable but lightweight animated TV series "Hey Arnold!" In the movie version, the assorted characters mobilize to save their funky neighborhood from conversion to a state-of-the-art shopping mall. It's a refreshing theme for a kids' movie, one that incorporates history and urban flavor, not to mention a preservationists' perspective, into the usual mix.

But ultimately, "Hey Arnold! The Movie" is modest, unremarkable fare, suited more to the small screen.

The "football-headed" Arnold is an unlikely hero, but he's without any interesting flaws. He's an idealist who, influenced by his eccentric grandparents, is determined to save the targeted-for-razing area between 33rd and 39th streets that has always been his home.

"Hey Arnold! The Movie" offers a plethora of ethnic stereotypes to let us know this is a diverse neighborhood, such as the crude Italian contractor, a slow-witted Russian immigrant and an excitable, hard-to-understand Asian. It's nice that Arnold's best friend and accomplice is African-American, but does Gerald have to speak in jivey style and display an unusual interest in fashion? Helga, the neighborhood bully who behaves like a refugee from "Rugrats," suffers from conflicting personality traits. One minute she's swooning and mooning over Arnold, her secret crush, and the next, she's torturing him and sabotaging his plans for saving the locals. The conflict makes for less an interesting character than a confusing one, aiding the stereotype of the ditzy girl who doesn't know what she wants.

When Arnold learns from his crusty grandpa that a minor skirmish with the British once took place in the neighborhood, he and Gerald set out to locate the document that will prove the place a historic landmark. They do battle with evil industrialist Scheck by infiltrating his labyrinth Future Tech industries. The intrepid boys have lots of adventures in their quest, aided by a femme-fatale communications expert named Bridget who is, far too conveniently, able to supply the boys with all the high-tech tools they need to perform these "Mission: Impossible" feats.

The movie's outcome will surprise no one. "Hey Arnold!" isn't that novel in either its storytelling or its visual style. It is an acceptable way to pass a little over an hour with moviegoers ages 8-10, but it's unlikely to inspire anything more than a visit to McDonald's, let alone some savvy street activism.

2 stars
"Hey Arnold! The Movie"
Directed by Tuck Tucker; written by Craig Bartlett, Steve Viksten; music by Jim Lag; produced by Albie Hecht; executive-produced by Marjorie Cohn. A Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies release; opens Friday, June 28. Running time: 1:18. MPAA rating: PG (some thematic elements).
Arnold -- voice of Spencer Klein
Gerald -- voice of Jamil Smith
Helga -- voice of Francesca Marie Smith
Grandpa/Nick -- voice of Dan Castellaneta
Scheck -- voice of Paul Sorvino
Bridget -- voice of Jennifer Jason Leigh

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