Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against The Universe (MOVIE REVIEW)
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Director: Bob Bowen
Cast: Vincent Martella, Ashley Tisdale, Ali Wong, Dan Povenmire
Phineas and Ferb is an interesting TV show to talk about, especially given its huge significance in the cultural zeitgeist of animated television. What Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh have done to bring this show to life, down to its quirky characters, unique experimentation of repetitive story threads, and a barrage of great songs is nothing short of spectacular. It’s unlike anything on television which is why even after 5 years of not being on the air, it is still gathering traction among fans and becoming a huge cult favourite. In many ways, it seems like Disney realised this, which is why their newest film, Candace Against The Universe, most likely found its way into production with the same voice cast and creative team involved. But is this film a welcoming addition to an already well loved television series, or was this best only used as one of Doofensmirtz’s failed inventions?
Opening almost in the same parallels as an episode of the TV show, the film follow’s Candace, the older sister of Phineas and Ferb after failing to bust them once again after they spend another day creating a wacky invention in their backyard. Feeling under the shadow of her talented brothers, Candace goes through a small crisis on her own which is only made worse when she is abducted by aliens from another planet who deem her to be special under their own empire. Having felt they hurt their feelings and wanting to bring her back, it’s up to Phineas and Ferb, along with their friends and mad scientist, Heinz Doofensmirtz, to fly to the alien planet and rescue Candace from a threat completely under her nose.
If the plot synopsis given is any given indication that the plot seems somewhat nonsensical and a little cliche, that’s very much because that is what Phineas and Ferb is as a tv show. The show is a very creative, witty and hugely experimental take on silly concepts and standard tv tropes, and in a lot of ways, this same brand of comedy translates to the movie incredibly seamlessly. The film’s main focus is to be an outlandish comedy with some heartfelt elements to keep the audience engaged enough with its characters. It’s especially crucial for a character like Candace, who mainly works as an antagonist for the show, always plotting to bust her brothers when she witnesses their crazy inventions day-by-day only for their mother to never find out. But for this film, they decided to recontextualise this aspect of the show and help it serve as a solid character study for Candace herself. How she feels very weak in comparison to her brothers because of how wickedly talented they are and how it makes her feel like she is never having any fun of her own. While it isn’t gone into too much depth, it helps make her sympathetic, which was a necessity for those who might have not watched the series. It all leads into a surprisingly fun alien movie where Candace is roped into an alien society that sees her to be as special as she wishes to be, which is only exaggerated to even greater lengths when she becomes close to the alien leader voiced by Ali Wong. While it does lead to a story that is indeed very predictable especially once the aliens come into play, it isn’t entirely devoid of surprises and there is a clear sense of self awareness and irony to the film’s approach.
And this is where the general quirkiness of Phineas and Ferb’s writing comes into play, and this is very much the best aspect of the film. After five years, it feels so good to see these characters back on our screens again and they are just as loveable as ever. Much of this film leeches off of the amazing chemistry that Phineas and his band of friends have with each other and they all feel like they have their own unique identities to stand out between one another. It’s also helped with the amazingly funny pairing of them alongside Dr Doofensmirtz, who tags along with them on their journey since he also wants to find his daughter, Vanessa. He’s an absolute riot on screen and the overall dynamic with the cast is what keeps the comedy fresh and turns what is a fairly generic story into something with a real personality behind it. The jokes are very fast paced and mostly hit, with one particular 4th wall gag being one of the strongest belly laughs to come out of an animated film in a long time. Also much like the show, the songs are very strong, being filled to the brim with creative lyrics and great in-jokes that benefit the humour and the story as well. It’s also balanced out with a strong heart to the story that is able to actually bring some surprising emotional depth towards its conclusion without feeling overly forced or emotionally manipulative. It’s all still in line with the signature charm of Phineas and Ferb, even if there are also some issues with the film’s animation. While it is a bit unfair to criticise a film with a TV budget that won’t meet the same standards of theatrical animation, the film does have some inconsistencies with its visuals that can seem a bit stilted in ways that even the TV show didn’t initially have. Some of these problems might have been subject to much of the animation being produced by artists remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic which is perfectly understandable, but there could have been ways to mask around the issue while still keeping a consistent quality.
Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe is an extremely fun and quirky TV movie that feels like it came out during the right time to give great laughs and joy to people of all ages. While it is quite formulaic at its core and there are some issues in regards to the animation quality, the overall charm that Phineas and Ferb has is what keeps its from feeling redundant or nonunique. It’s consistently funny, very lively, filled to the brim with catchy and satirical songs, all making for a great experience for fans and those who might be convinced to check the series out after viewing it. You have got to give credit to Phineas and Ferb for creating a film that should give people the lifting spirits we need now during unprecedented times.
FINAL RATING: 7/10 (GOOD)
Solid character study for Candace
A fairly generic plot