Rated PG - Running Time: 1:16 - Released 6/28/02

I love watching respected actors trying to explain why in the world they would take part in cheesy, low-budget cartoon features. I saw Paul Sorvino the other night on Jon Stewart's Daily Show, making the usual noises about how Hey, Arnold!, the latest Nickelodeon TV cartoon to make the leap to the big screen, is a cute movie that parents can enjoy as much as children, and I think it was all they could do—both of them—to keep from breaking out laughing. As with virtually all TV cartoons in production today, the animation of Hey, Arnold!, the story about an affable, kilt-wearing city kid with a football-shaped head and a racially eclectic circle of friends, could charitably be called cheap, and the film's animators have certainly made no effort nor had any desire to upgrade the artistic style for the film. But as we've learned from The Simpsons, South Park, and numerous other adult-aimed TV cartoons, lame artwork can be excused (heck, it's really the vogue style right now) if the show has adequate writers.

Sadly, that rule does not apply to Hey, Arnold!, either the show or the movie. Although creator Craig Bartlett and screenwriter Steve Viksten, who have both written for the textually superior (artistically equal) Rugrats, and first-time director Tuck Tucker have managed to inject a few clever lines and gimmicks here and there (like references to Mission: Impossible, The Shawshank Redemption, and Men In Black), this film really has no business in theatres. It's an extra-long episode of the TV show, plain and simple, and Sorvino's participation does more to degrade his resumé than to elevate the film.

The story involves the tired old premise of a megalomaniacal big businessman trying to destroy the sanctity of home and family for money. Mr. Scheck (voice of Sorvino), C.E.O. of Future Tech Industries, announces plans for what he considers urban renewal for the run-down neighborhood populated by Arnold (Spencer Klein, only the 3rd actor to voice this part since the show's 1996 debut) and his friends. To put it simply, he's going to bulldoze the whole block and put up a string of high-priced stores, one of which will be owned by the father of Helga Pataki (Francesca Smith), the pig-tailed, mono-browed girl who masks her secret love for Arnold with open hostility, regularly referring to him as "Football-head." Erecting a huge TV monitor atop the apartment buildings, Scheck plays an ongoing videotape of himself in Big Brother fashion, chanting things like "change is good" and "I've seen the future, and it is Future Tech." Although most of the neighborhood's population is pretty much ready to give up and start packing, Arnold decides to try to stop Scheck from destroying his home, and Helga is forced to choose between helping the boy she loves (but pretends to hate) or helping her father by putting roadblocks in Arnold's way. As the clock ticks down the time until the demolition starts, Arnold and his best friend Gerald (Jamil Walker Smith) go up against the evil man and his giant company, discovering that he has ulterior motives based on an old grudge.

According to the Internet Movie Database, this film was originally intended as a 3-part finale which would air on TV and end the Hey Arnold! series. Why did the producers choose instead to make a feature film run? More money, of course. So you see, the film's message is different from the one you see on the screen. Power-hungry businessmen really do call the shots, lining their pockets with the profits made from selling inferior merchandise to unsuspecting consumers. And guess what—if you go to this movie, you're just another sucker. Football-head.

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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