“Hey, Arnold!” is one of Nickelodeon’s many, many cartoon series, and “Hey, Arnold! The Movie” is one of Nickelodeon’s many, many kids’ films that are big on kiddie appeal but short on wit or brains.
The Disney animated features and the old-school Looney Tunes shorts have spoiled us: We want cartoons to entertain adults, too. Maybe that’s not fair to expect. Maybe the best we have a right to hope for is that kids’ movies will amuse kids while not actively annoying grown-ups.
In that respect, “Hey, Arnold! The Movie” is fine. It’s a low-key affair — boring, even — with some bursts of action near the end and the odd funny line here and there. It resembles nothing so much as a three-part episode of the TV show that has been blown up to fit on the big screen. (The low-grade animation and coloring do not look good this big, by the way.)
The story is set in a big city, possibly adjacent to a nuclear plant, since everyone in town has a weird-shaped head. Weirdest is football-headed Arnold (voice of Spencer Klein), an ordinary, optimistic 9-year-old who in the film rallies his friends together to stop a redevelopment that would force the small-shop owners and residents out of the area.
Yes, it’s civic pride that fuels this movie. Much of the film is devoted to Arnold and his pal Gerald (Jamil Walker Smith) searching for a missing document that would prove the neighborhood’s status as a historical landmark. Yes! A document! Thrill as they look through files! What’s next, an adventure movie set in a Kinko’s?
A few chuckles are provided by Arnold’s nemesis Helga (Francesca Smith), a one-eyebrowed girl who is secretly in love with Arnold. Arnold’s doddering grandfather (Dan Castellaneta, better known as Homer Simpson) and feisty grandmother (Tress MacNeille) are good for some smiles, too.
It’s an unspectacular, unexciting movie, to be sure. But what’s relevant is whether it will entertain kids. Will it? I don’t know; I’m not one. The tykes at the screening I attended liked it well enough, it seemed. If you’ve already seen “Lilo & Stitch,” this is your next best option as far as family entertainment goes. Well, this, or staying home and watching a good “Aladdin” or “The Lion King” again.
C- (; )